Please note: Since publication of this post XOJane has apologized for publishing an article that “perpetuated stigma and diminished the lives of people with mental illness.”
In a list of top ten fucked up things I have recently read the article, “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing,” is definitely number one. XOJane published this piece of shit that simultaneously perpetuates stigma towards people who suffer from a mental illness while promoting suicide.
The author, Amanda Lauren, talks about her former friend, Leah, who suffered from Schizoaffective Disorder. She spends an inordinate amount of time talking about how Leah was a filthy, boyfriend stealing, good-for-nothing parasite whose “mental illness took demonic possession over her.” Lauren writes: “there was always something about her that wasn’t quite right.” She then goes on a rant about all the petty things that Leah did wrong and why the author eventually ended their friendship.
The description of Leah as “filthy” and her inability to keep a job are essentially a caricature of people suffering from a mental illness. We’re all incapable of holding a job or keeping a tidy house because our illnesses “possess us.” The reality is that those of us who suffer from a mental illness lead full and productive lives. And although the Lauren writes: “I realize there are plenty of seriously mentally ill people who take meds and get better. I don’t think the prognosis for all people diagnosed with severe mental illness is death. There are people who learn to manage and live happy and productive lives,” I don’t believe her.
If she truly believed this I think she would have extended a hand to help her friend rather than watch Leah’s deteriorating state via Facebook in a “Mean Girl’s kind of way.” Unlike what the author believes, it wasn’t the Schizoaffective Disorder that “robbed [Leah] of reaching her full potential.” It was the fact that she didn’t receive help.
People suffering from a mental illness can lead full and productive lives, but only if they receive effective treatment. Unfortunately only 43% of adults with a mental illness receive help and the main factor in preventing people from seeking help is stigma. It’s bullshit articles like this one that stigmatize those of us who suffer from a mental illness and stop us from asking for help. Lauren, Leah and by extension other people suffering from a mental illness, are “beyond help” and therefore shouldn’t be given a fucking ounce of consideration. We’re not some fucking train wreck to be watched from afar and then held up as some sort of karmic tragedy.
But it’s not just the stigma that this article perpetuates and the insensitivity of Lauren that I find appalling. It’s the fact that a media outlet like XOJane thought it was smart to publish a piece of writing that essentially argues that people with a mental illness are better off dead.
And this isn’t hyperbole. Lauren literally writes that her former friend is better off dead: “It sounds horrible to say, but her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was.” This is a fucking horrible thing to say and she is a horrible fucking person for saying it. The piece is essentially an encouragement to an extremely vulnerable population that suicide is an acceptable means to end their suffering. The article promotes the idea that people with a mental illness shouldn’t be alive and that our lives are a “tragedy.”
In the ten years or so that I have suffered from Bipolar Disorder, I have had a few depressions that resulted in my hospitalization because of suicidal thoughts. Most recently, in February, I was seriously considering jumping off the top floor of my apartment building because I couldn’t deal with the pain of my disease any longer.
Lauren and XOJane, in a very public space, vocalized all of the thoughts that were already tumbling through my head. “I’m worthless.” “My life is pointless.” “I’m a waste of space.” “I’m better off dead.” Had I read this article in February, on the edge of that precipice between ending my life or continuing to fight, this article may have been the push I needed.
It’s completely irresponsible to publish writing like this and XOJane should be ashamed of themselves. Suicide is never a blessing.
All I want to say to anyone who will listen is to not give up hope and never think that you are beyond help. You just keep fighting and there are always people out there who care if you live or die.
For more on this topic I suggest reading this open letter by Sam Dylan Finch.