It’s been a week since the passing of talented American icon, Robin Williams.
As I sat in front of the telly at 4am two nights ago, I gave myself the permission to cry as I watched Patch Adams being aired as a poignant tribute to the man. Without the daytime flurry of emails and text messages, I finally had the headspace to grieve. Seeing him alive on screen drove home the irony of how a man who once made others smile, was in such desperate need of a smile himself. It was hard imagining him being alone with his struggles.
But it doesn’t have to be that way with us, for we are not alone.
Our story doesn’t have to end that way.
We can choose to keep the conversation going when it comes to mental illness, in particular, depression — the leading cause in suicide deaths. Regardless of whether depression occurs as a standalone diagnosis, or a ‘side effect’ of other illnesses, it is a serious condition that warrants urgent medical attention.
It’s hard to put into words the impact of suicide.
We often hear the angry and confused voices of the ones left behind, and rightfully so. Their loss is incomprehensible. And the pain they bear would be for the rest of their lives.
We then turn to experts who might offer plausible explanations for such an event. Most find it easiest to reconcile suicide with the advent of physiological illness (early stages of Parkinson’s), rather than mental illness itself.
But what we seldom hear of are the stories of those who have survived suicide.
I am one such person, along with many Tapestry readers and mental health advocates in my circle.
When you step back from the brink of death, and come away with the choice to live, even if it’s just for today – it changes you.
It alters your worldview; the way you “do life”.
As suicide survivors, we know what it’s like to be in that dark place where you just want the pain to end. And death looks like a viable option.
But it is not.
Suicide is a serious, permanent decision that has lasting, damaging consequences for those who do care.
One of the main reasons why people contemplate suicide is because their existing resources are insufficient in coping with the existing problem or situation.
Therefore, the way out is not death, but it is to increase resources, such as emotional support, understanding, coping strategies, financial assistance etc.
This is where we have a part to play, as individuals and as a community.
As we share our mental health stories, we empower ourselves and others. We begin paying it forward. We start owning our recovery. We learn, we teach… and we learn some more.
Perhaps today, it may look as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And it might seem like a case of one step forward, two steps back… But your breakthrough will come – if you would hold on just for today. Then for the next day, and then the next.
It is about building resources.
I do think about my own mortality on some days: Is my life about delaying death or is it about living life? Do I want to live life being mentally “un-ill”, or being fighting fit?
I have no answers that can apply to us all. But what I do know is:
This is my fight.
Keeping myself above the waters of depression and anxiety is a daily battle. If I hadn’t made the choice to increase my resources with medical treatment and therapy, I wouldn’t be here today. This is why it is vital to get professional help before things escalate.
“Death is not the enemy, gentlemen. If we are going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all — indifference.” – Robin Williams, Patch Adams.
May the memory and legacy of Robin Williams live on in our hearts. And may we never treat his death as simply last week’s news.
If you feel alone or that no one cares, I do… And so does the Tapestry community.
Your life is worth fighting for. Choose to live — truly live.
Emergency 24-Hr Helplines:
Samaritans of Singapore
1800 221 4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health
1800 283 7019
IMH-Mobile Crisis Team