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If You Are Ignorant, Be Also Silent

For the last few days, social media has been abuzz with chatter about the loss of Robin Williams.  I’ve seen so many beautiful tributes.  Fans all around the world have written lovely posts and have edited and uploaded photos of a happy, joyous Robin.  People have shared clips of Robin’s funny and tender television and silver screen moments on Facebook so that we could all remember the genius of this incredible talent.  I saw one drawing an incredibly gifted artist made of a beaming Robin with the names of his movies beside his joyously illuminated face.  Celebrities and those who knew and loved Robin have written lovely and emotional stories for us so that we too could see the man that they loved…the man behind the laughter.  I’ve seen him characterized as loving, kind, generous, warm, and humble.  I’ve also seen him labeled a coward, and someone so self-engrossed and so self-involved that he dared to make the horribly selfish choice to end his life with little to no thought about how his decision would impact those who loved him and his millions of fans all around the world.  As I continue to see judgmental, hateful posts like this, I become more and more enraged.  I have something to say, Internet, and you’re going to hear it.  Indulge me as I take this opportunity to set straight anyone ignorant about mental health and suicide.

If you are ignorant, be also silent.  Having an opinion does not an expert make you.  You are absolutely entitled to think and believe as you think and believe.  It is not my intention to rob you of your right to exercise independent thought.  I am saying, however, that just because you have a voice does not mean that you should use it.  We seem to have lost the desire to exercise conscious restraint.  The Internet has given everyone a voice, and sadly, many use it when they should not.  The posting of any accusatory or inflammatory rhetoric about someone who has suffered and died or about the feelings you believe that he may have felt is inappropriate, period.  To our collective shame, we have become a society of people so intent on increasing our own personal visibility that we often do so to the detriment of others.  Use your voice to uplift and love others.  To do anything other than support and love those who suffer is barbarous.  I read one person’s belief that we’re all to be shamed for publicly recognizing Robin and remembering him fondly in the way that we are.  And why is this person shaming us?  Because others who are sick and have suicidal ideologies will too commit suicide just so they can receive similar adoration.  This same person went to say that Robin Williams did not die of mental illness.  Rather, he died of an intentional and selfish choice.  No one who would take his or her own life is selfish.  Someone hurting and suffering so gravely that this choice seems the only viable option is ill.  Any choice made in that kind of illness and that kind of pain is not the choice a healthy person would make.  Suffering of that magnitude is, luckily, something most of us will never understand.  I’m absolutely certain, however, that in an illness of that depth, the harming of those left behind is the absolute last thing on someone’s mind.  Unless you have struggled with mental health issues personally or unless you love someone who has struggled, keep your mouth shut about it.  You bring nothing to the table except uninformed notions of what you believe to be true.  People that I dearly love have struggled with mental illness and with everything in me, I swear to you that their struggles were real.  In the same way that anyone struggles with an illness, be it cancer or heart disease or diabetes, a mentally ill person needs help.  Needs support.  Needs love.  Any balderdash that claims anything to the contrary is misinformed and ignorant. 

To anyone who is suffering with mental illness, I beg of you to reach out for help.  There are people out there who are willing to listen to you and who are willing to hold you up when you yourself lack the strength to do so.  If you are considering self-harm, I ask that you please remember that the world is not a better place without you in it.  I also beg that you call one of the many suicide hotlines and ask for help.  There are many out there, both here in America and all over the world.  Please give the you of tomorrow a chance to realize that healing and joy are out there waiting for you.  They’re wonderful, too. 

Love to all of you.

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