February 3, 2014 by jeliwobble
I am having difficulty organising my thoughts about some things that I was thinking about over the weekend. Two fairly disparate things, I suppose, with a central theme; drug addiction.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was discovered dead of what is thought to be a drug overdose. And here is my first disconnected thought. Here is a famous man, a great actor (another one), who has died of his struggles with what might be termed his ‘mental health issues’. Addiction is not always just about the physical need of the drug’s action on the body, but also the inability to release the need for the quiet comfort of the cotton wool that illegal drugs give a clamouring mind. We take these kinds of stories in our stride. Famous people often get addicted to things, drugs illegal or prescription, alcohol, sex, even plastic surgery, I suppose because it’s all there in front of them and they have lots of money to get whatever they want. I think it’s a bit odd that we accept this as part of being an artist or celebrity, especially when they die of over-indulgence in their chosen addiction. We feel sad but we don’t particularly vilify them for their problem. These are also people who could, if they wanted to, afford the best mental health practitioners in the world to help them with their addiction. Often they are in and out of rehab without seemingly having any significant change in their behaviour. So why do we let them get away with it? Is it addiction or addictive behaviour just something we accept as part and parcel of being an artist?
In the second disconnected thought, I was shown an appalling story of how two young people, probably on drugs, had left their baby to essentially rot in his own filth. I was taken back to the same story in Trainspotting, except this one was real, inasmuch as the one in Trainspotting had been based on snippets of fact about drug use. Not being present in the courtroom when these two kids were put to trial, I don’t know precisely what happened but I can almost guarantee that there were significant mental health issues. While mental health problems are not an excuse for the kind of neglect that causes such an awful death, and should not prevent someone going to prison for their inaction, it should also not mean that these kids should not be treated for their significant problems. They are still someone’s child. They may have forfeited the right to live in society but they still should have the ability to be treated for their mental health issues, and given the opportunity to offer reparation to the community they have taken a member from. Anything else makes us, as the arbiters of justice, as bad as they are, neglecting their lives and, in effect, turning the loss of one life in to the loss of three.
And the third disconnection is this; why is the death of a famous addict treated with much shrugging of shoulders, yet the parents of a neglected, also dead, baby is greeted with calls to hang them? Both have resulted in a death, both from mental health issues, but seemingly because one has people we can put in prison for the crime, it’s much worse?
The taboo that surrounds mental health issues makes me want to shake the world awake. One in four people will suffer from some kind of mental health issue in their life time.
One in four.
When you consider the amount of money poured into researching the ‘cure for cancer’, which affects one in three of us, why do we persist in discounting mental health issues as a real and desperate problem that needs the same kind of action? When someone dies of cancer, we are full of sadness for them and their family. When someone commits suicide, or effectively dies of their mental health issues, we get angry, call them selfish and blame them for not getting help. When a parent kills their child, almost definitely because of their mental health issues, we put them in prison, or worse in this country.
Because that helps us all recognise and deal with our minds not working appropriately, doesn’t it?
Am I a bad person for wishing I could take them all back to a place where, instead of self medicating with drugs, they got some real and appropriate help for their minds? Then maybe the world wouldn’t have lost a great actor, and a tiny baby and his parents.