When I write about these celebrities it is often to help raise awareness about mental illness. The stories of these celebrities remind us that mental illness is a very common illness but also one that we try to hide all the time. However, when we speak up, we help bring it to light. As more people can identify with those of us with mental illness, more compassion can be created, and the more people will want to help rather than make fun of or hide the illness.
For some reason though, even with how much I like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I felt like I did not know what to say, until I read an article by actress Jamie Lee Curtis on the subject of Hoffman's death and addiction in general. In it she says: "What we rarely talk about are the deaths of the unknown soldiers and civilians, the non-famous. Their deaths, no less sad and tragic, their families' grief, any lesser."
I could write about another celebrity and have a call to action through compassion and better care for those of us with addiction and mental illness. However, I have done it so many times before. What makes the stories of the celebrities any more important than the many people who die daily of overdose and suicide? Furthermore, I feel a bit like I am almost exploiting the deaths of these celebrities by using their death as a way to call us to action. Would they want their death to be used in that way? I did not ask them. Am I using their celebrity status for an agenda rather than seeing them as just another human being who struggled to live well on this earth, just like all the rest of us?
The truth is, everyone who has mental illness matters. None of these celebrities are any different than the rest of us. Yet we keep writing these stories because it's sensational yet a few months later we forget and nothing changes. In the mean time, people with mental illness are dying every day and we never mention them and never write about them. In fact, we cover up the reason for their death. In the mean time about 58 million people in America are living with a mental disorder and we do not do much about it.
How about now we do something about it instead of only talking about it when a new story comes out?
Here are some suggestions of what we can do:
- Learn about mental illness and the effectiveness of different types of treatment.
- Read stories from people living with mental illness.
- Ask a friend or family member with mental illness how we can support them.
- Advocate for more advanced treatment options.
- Volunteer with an organization that helps people with mental illness.