Suicide: Ending the Myth of the Tortured Genius
When a celebrity dies by suicide it is a tragedy, but we need to move away from the myth of the tortured genius if we are really going to advance the conversation around mental health and suicide.
Suicide is not something exclusive to the rich and the famous. It is not an anomaly. Thousands of people die by suicide in the UK every year. It is the biggest killer of young men in Britain. It is not a conscious decision made by misunderstood creatives, it is most often the outcome of years of mundane and excruciating illness and pain.
That is not to say that we shouldn’t feel compassion towards celebrities that take their own life. Of course we should. The recent news of The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint’s death saddened me greatly. While The Prodigy admittedly hadn’t been a big part of my life recently, some of my happiest moments in my younger days revolved around albums like Music For The Jilted Generation. I still don’t think I’ve really gotten over the death of Robin Williams. These were people that played a role in my life.
While celebrities may live very different lives to the people struggling out of the limelight, mental torment is mental torment. These are people who have faced untold pain. We should feel sad when a celebrity takes their own life, and remember that suicide is a very real, everyday problem that affects so many people. So many brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, friends and loved ones face this reality on a daily basis.
When we talk about a celebrity suicide as being something separate than other suicides we perpetuate the myth that this couldn’t happen to us.
It is important to realise this.
Depression, one of the leading causes of suicide, is not selective in who it chooses. It is only something that happens to other people until it happens to you or someone close to you.
Burying our heads in the sand will not reduce the number of people dying by suicide each day. It will sustain it and help it grow.
People often believe that the act of talking about suicide leads to suicide, when in fact the reverse is true.
The more we can hold the space for ourselves and people we are close to to talk about how they are feeling and really listen without judgement, the more we can create positive change.
Let’s create a world where we are not afraid to speak and not afraid to listen.