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mental health mondays :: belated and brief

i feel like the last week has left me inundated with mhm material, but i haven't had a lot of chances to do any quality research, so i'm going to have to leave this short and sweet, with something that i'd intended to write about, but had my intentions changed as the story continued to unfold. 

as some of you may be aware, henry rollins penned a column about robin williams and about suicide in general recently. it got a lot of reaction, some of it positive, but a lot of it negative. very negative. although i rarely feel compelled to leave comments on pieces i read online [because comment threads are usually where the last vestiges of our humanity are butchered and their carcasses hung in the window], i did leave my own comment on this one. it's buried in there somewhere, but this is what i said: 


I think that your intentions are probably good here, but sir: you just don't get it. What's worse is that you're using your public platform to repeat one of the ancient tropes about mental illness that actually stops people from getting treatment- that people with mental disorders are in control of what's happening to them. People who are clinically depressed don't choose suicide the way that you choose an item on a menu at a restaurant. They are compelled to suicide the way that your body compels you to eat. It's not a matter of "feeling your pain", it's a matter of understanding that people who are severely depressed don't see the world in the same way you do. It's like going through your life convinced the sky is purple and not understanding why people keep insisting it's blue. 
It's all well and good that you've seen depressed people and sympathized with them and maybe you want to help, but what you're doing is damaging and if you'd paused to read up on the issue, the way you do on so many other issues, you might have realized that giving into your gut on a subject with which you're only anecdotally familiar was the wrong way to go. I've read things that you've written and seen you do spoken word performances several times. You're better than this specious, easy-bake logic. Act like it.

it was disappointing for me to see that someone who is so logical about a lot of things get thrown back to an unwise state of relying on gut feelings rather than knowledge on the subject, which is what we're dealing with here. fortunately, my disappointment was short-lived, because rollins published this statement on his website, wherein he basically cops to all the problems that i [among many others] had found with his original piece. [note: when i say he responded to the issues i had, i do not mean that he responded to me directly. he didn't, of course. i simply mean that his apology incorporated points that addressed my concerns.]

the best thing about this is that it speaks to the possibility that people- smart people- can realise what is wrong with their reasoning about depression and mental illness. feeling sorry and realising that you have reason to be sorry is a big first step. admitting that you don't understand as well as you thought is a big step. once you've made those, when you've realised [as i have about many things] that you really don't understand the mechanics of something, then you're in the ideal place to find out more about it. no one ever learned anything by staying convinced that they already know best. 

good on rollins for seeing and admitting his mistake. it's a relief to once again be able to see him as leading, rather than following. 

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