Last week Gene Simmons of KISS apologized after making some harsh statements about depression and suicide -- two weeks before Robin Williams' death. They were insensitive, essentially saying to those suffering from depression that the world is harsh and to deal with it or just kill yourself. After Williams' passing, Simmons apologized for what he said, hopefully realizing that those facing depression need support to get help and do not deserve to be harshly criticized. Sadly, another celebrity rock star has made some new comments on depression, this time directly attacking Robin Williams.
Henry Rollins slammed Williams for what he did to his children when he ended his life. He also added that he no longer takes anything Williams did seriously.
Rollins' post titled "Fuck Suicide" is the latest installment in his column for LA Weekly. I agree with the title -- fuck suicide, indeed. And cancer. And war. And all the terrible things that happen in this world. Fuck it all. I wish it didn't exist. I also appreciate all of what Rollins writes at the start of his article. He praises Williams' work, calls him a good man. And then he says what so many are thinking, the unpopular critique. In true Rollins style. He writes that he "cannot understand how any parent could kill themselves."
As a parent, I (somewhat) understand what he's trying to say -- we need to be there for our children. But Rollins is forgetting the complexities of depression. He wrote:
How in the hell could you possibly do that to your children? I don’t care how well adjusted your kid might be — choosing to kill yourself, rather than to be there for that child, is every shade of awful, traumatic and confusing. I think as soon as you have children, you waive your right to take your own life. No matter what mistakes you make in life, it should be your utmost goal not to traumatize your kids. So, you don’t kill yourself.
Don't kill yourself. I wish it was that simple for those suffering. But it's not that simple. Williams' children are suffering, no doubt, but they don't need this pain on top of it. Rollins continues:
And I get that you can’t understand anyone else’s torment. All that “I feel your pain” stuff is bullshit and disrespectful. You can appreciate it, listen and support someone as best you can, but you can’t understand it. Depression is so personal and so unique to each of us that when you’re in its teeth, you think you invented it. You can understand your own, but that’s it. When you are severely depressed, it can be more isolating than anything else you have ever experienced. In trying to make someone understand, you can only speak in approximation. You are truly on your own.
So he gets it, somewhat. He understands, I think. He talks of a friend's suicide next and then comes down hard:
I get it, but then again, maybe I don’t. When someone negates their existence, they cancel themselves out in my mind. I have many records, books and films featuring people who have taken their own lives, and I regard them all with a bit of disdain. When someone commits this act, he or she is out of my analog world. I know they existed, yet they have nullified their existence because they willfully removed themselves from life. They were real but now they are not. I no longer take this person seriously. I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them. Their life wasn’t cut short — it was purposely abandoned. It’s hard to feel bad when the person did what they wanted to. It sucks they are gone, of course, but it’s the decision they made. I have to respect it and move on.
I can't help but think that sounds so heartless. Is he trying some kind of bully tactic to talk people out of suicide? Yes, we have to move on. But I'm not sure it's as simple as saying that a person who committed suicide abandoned their life. Depression is a a griping mental health issue -- many who suffer feel abandonment, they don't want to abandon their life, they feel their life abandoned them. It's complex and as Rollins said, unique to every individual who suffers. He seems angry -- he tends to often. And death does bring out anger, but he also sounds cold. Rollins ends his post by writing: "Almost 40,000 people a year kill themselves in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In my opinion, that is 40,000 people who blew it." I disagree. Our healthcare system blew it. Our lack of compassion blew it. That is 40,000 people who needed help, the kind of help they didn't get. The kind of help we all need to offer those in need. The kind of help that those who suffer shouldn't be afraid to ask for. But they are. Because of how we don't recognize the illness. By callously saying you don't understand those whose commit suicide, that they blew it, is dismissing the illness. Saying you don't take anything the person who died did seriously and how you don't know how they did that to their children is perpetuating the problem. I just can't agree with Rollins' remarks in this case.
What do you think of what Rollins said?
Please call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in case you are worried about yourself, or someone else.
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