Sinead O’Connor reveals a harsh truth about mental illness
The loss of two popular public figures in recent months has shone a spotlight on the risks of mental illness. Following the deaths of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, there was a massive outpouring of support and encouragement for those with mental illness to be unafraid to seek help and talk about their struggles.
So, it is difficult not to raise an eyebrow at the response to Sinead O’Connor’s recent Facebook video where she candidly talks about her mental illness, the isolation she feels stuck in, and her continuous battle with suicidal thoughts.
Where Cornell and Bennington’s deaths were met with great compassion, O’Connor’s emotional video has been treated with a sense of “shock.” Tabloids have been publishing overly dramatic headlines about the singer since the release of the video (and well-before then, if we’re being honest), and social media has been filled with snark.
If this was the response to a celebrity promoting another hair-brained product or acting scandalously in public, this might be understandable. In this case, however, the response has been entirely misplaced. The issues Sinead O’Connor is talking about are very real, and leave millions of people like her without support structures during very vulnerable times. Without these support structures, they can be in an incredibly dangerous place.
In the 12-minute long video, O’Connor tearfully explains she has been living in a hotel in New Jersey for the past two years – since she lost custody of her son in a very public trial that focused heavily on her mental well-being.
“I’m all by myself, there’s absolutely nobody in my life… except my doctor, my psychiatrist, who is the sweetest man on earth,” O’Connor, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, says in the video. “Who says I’m his hero… and that’s about the only f***ing thing keeping me alive at the moment.”
While the singer has received love and support from fans in the wake of the video, others have treated it as a cry for attention. Some have dismissed her current situation as the result of “toxic relationships” pointing to a recent divorce. To be clear, these people are missing the singer’s point entirely.
Sinead O’Connor’s struggle with mental illness and drug abuse has been occurring in the public eye for several years. She also pointedly explains she didn’t make the video for herself.
As she explains: “I hope that this video is somehow helpful… Not actually to me, but the fact that I know that I’m only one of millions of millions of millions of people who are just like me, actually, who don’t have necessarily the resources that I have in my heart or my purse for that matter.”
O’Connor is correct that she is one of the millions around the world who struggle with mental illness and eventually become isolated because of their illness. It’s important to recognize that while celebrities with mental illness have access to the best health care in the world, there are countless others who live with mental illness and limited or no access to treatment.
To make matters worse, mental illness can be disabling and make it very difficult to manage personal and professional relationships – especially if untreated. As these stresses add up, some are left without an essential support system to prevent something catastrophic from happening. That appears to be the case in O’Connor’s situation.
Without a support system, O’Connor is left alone and suicidal like countless others who face mental illness.
Despite feeling isolated and voicing her struggles with suicidal thoughts, O’Connor expressed that she planned to keep fighting her illness because she recognized she is “one of millions.”
She says, “I’m really sad and I shouldn’t be here and I know I’m just one of millions and that’s the only thing that keeps me going. I’m making this video because I am one of millions.”
There have been too many tragic reminders of the dangerous nature of mental illness lately to let the relatively dismissive response to O’Connor’s honesty go unnoticed. If we can hope to ever truly help and support those who are affected by mental illness, we have to start by changing how we talk about those who are brave enough to share their experiences.
As O’Connor says: “You’ve got to take care of us … We are doing our best like everybody.”
Watch the full video below (contains sensitive language):
Posted by Sinead O'Connor on Thursday, August 3, 2017
The longer mental illness is allowed to grow, the more it can take from you. But, there is always a path back. Reaching out is the first step towards reconnecting with yourself and others. You’re not alone and there are people who want to help. Call Brookhaven at (888) 298-4673to talk to someone today.