Category Archives: Suicide

Robin Williams: The Legacy Will Never Die

552957-robin_williams_1_license_to_wedWe can sometimes measure how much someone is loved by how much laughter they bring to our lives. We can also measure it by how many tears are shed when they depart. Robin Williams was one such man where both of these are immeasurable, and it is genuine sorrow and despair that has gripped millions around the world upon hearing of his death early this week.

Growing up, Robin Williams was one of the most popular icons of my childhood. His exuberant talents as the Genie in Aladdin to his hilarious performance in Mrs. Doubtfire were just a few roles he fulfilled that brought laughter to the lives of many. Robin Williams is associated with smiles; he is associated with cosy family nights in, feeling the warmth and energy surround you and your loved ones as you watch one of his films; he is associated with laughter in the school playground, trying to mimic the many voices he used to do. And now, he is also associated with the other end of the spectrum: sadness, despair, shock and grief.

Depression can grip some of the best people, this is true. How could a man like Robin Williams not suffer from depression? This was a man who loved to make people laugh. He was someone whose warmth and compassionate nature was so powerful that it shone through his performances, right through our television screens. For someone who loved so deeply, strongly and whose ambition was to make others smile, how could melancholy and sadness not be a part of his life, when life itself is often swathed in misery, suffering and heartache? When events unfold that cause tears, not laughter, to flow from you, how can anyone not feel overwhelming sadness at this? I am of the belief that it was this constant battle with a world that was out of sync with what Robin Williams wanted, what so many of us want, that contributed towards his untimely passing. I don’t believe anyone will ever know what was going through his mind when he took his own life, nor the exact reasons behind it. Maybe things got too much; maybe he wanted to leave on his own terms; maybe we shan’t ever know. But for a person to take this route, we can only suspect one infallible thing: this is a sign of someone who has been too strong for too long and it is for this reason that we must acknowledge the strength and courage it took for him to keep going for as long as he did, not just despair at the ending itself.

His death, like his films, has taught us many things. It has taught us that money, fame and status are not the elixir of life, as so many are fooled into thinking. Material abundance is no guarantee of happiness. It is no assurance that those who have these things cannot fall victim to depression. As humans beings, no matter our backgrounds or status, we can all be susceptible to it. It can even be said that his death has brought the wide divide between the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘extraordinary’ closer together; Robin Williams has shown us that Hollywood is not a land of untouchable, immortal gods, but instead a place of human beings who can suffer just as we suffer, feel just as we feel. 

So we will grieve, all of us who have been affected by him in some way, large or small. Much bewilderment will continue, much sadness and many, many tears. But as time passes, the legacy he left will continue to grow stronger. Though he has gone, his ability to make people smile lives on. Whenever we flick on our TV screens and see one of his films, whenever we scroll through Youtube and hear ‘You ain’t never had a friend like me!” whenever we just think of an actor who made us crack a grin – that is the legacy he left. It is timeless, priceless and, above all, it continues to serve as a beacon for others who know what darkness is, but through Williams’ example, can retain hope that spreading light into the lives of others is a very real possibility and attainable goal. Robin Williams may have extinguished the light inside himself, but he has lit flames in thousands upon thousands and there really can be no greater achievement than that. I firmly believe life does not end when we die and that there is a place we go to where darkness, sorrow, illness and depression does not exist. It is a comfort, perhaps, to the many of us left behind that someone who gave so much to this world is now free from the very miseries that made him want to leave it in the first place. RIP Robin Williams.  

Bullying: How to Fight Back!

ImageI know how it feels to be bullied. I vividly remember walking into school, day in and day out, total dread in the pit of my stomach, knowing that each time I entered that school I’d be barraged with insults from all sides. Here’s a list of the verbal diarrhea bullies used to hurl at me:

  • “Urghhhhhhh, she’s sooooo ugly!”
  • “Oi, Goth! Oi, Marilyn Manson!”
  • “Oiiiii, Goth – slit your wrists!”
  • “Oiiiii, Goth – watch this!” (Bully then proceeds to make ‘wrist-slitting’ motion with his hands, much to the amusement of his band of friends, who stand around laughing and pointing.)
  • “Haha – you ugly fishface!”
  • “Quick – push her into the bushes!”

Imagine dealing with this everyday for about three years straight. Imagine not having a single friend at school to help you; furthermore, imagine that there were people who claimed to be your friends, but rather than stand up for you, they just stood there and watched whenever you were being tormented.  Imagine that one of these so-called friends also took it upon herself – in an act of spite – to reveal to the entire school a secret you had confided to her in confidence; the secret of self-harming because, the truth is, the emotional pain really just got too much to bear at times. Imagine also having to deal with a major episode of depression which began about a year before all the name-calling and insults, and lasted until your late teens, resulting in seeing a psychiatrist every week on schedule.

Bullying That Results in Death

ImagePhoebe Prince, pictured, was bullied to death by two gangs of students at her school. She was fifteen when she committed suicide because she couldn’t handle it any more. This is just one of the many cases where bullied teens are turning to death as the answer because of spite and cruelty … But death must NEVER be an option!

Being one of those depressed, suicidal, bullied teens is not something I have to imagine, because I was one of them. When I hear about kids on the news who have committed suicide, a sick feeling of pity and anger washes over me. I think to myself about how it could easily have been me. But I never took that route – and because I survived, I came out stronger than I would have ever believed. The thought these days of caving into bullies or spiteful on-lookers, whether there are ten, twenty or thirty of them, is just laughable. Whether offline or online, I’m able to stand my ground and express a courage that I would never have attained, had I not survived those dark days. But not everyone is as lucky as me – and that is why I felt compelled to write a post like this. Though deeply personal and somewhat difficult for me to relive those times, I want to share my experiences if there is even a shred of hope that one kid being bullied or harassed stumbles across this blogpost. Sometimes, you can’t bring yourself to speak to anyone about what’s happening – but what you can do is read the words of someone who cares, someone who was in the exact same position and someone who made it out stronger and all the more better for experiencing such trials.

Image DO NOT TAKE THEIR WORDS TO HEART.

Right, so they’re bombarding you with insults. They’re calling you ‘fat’, ‘ugly’, ‘slut’, ‘whore’ ‘retard’ ‘gay’, etc. etc – the list goes on. I know that words can cut deep, especially if you’re particularly sensitive as I am. But essentially, their words mean absolutely nothing. Think about it … In twenty years time, that playground bully who fancies himself as some kind of Don is most likely to be guzzling beer everyday (hereby developing the fattest beer gut the world has ever seen), he’s likely to be working in some fast-food restaurant flipping burgers – if he works at all … More likely he’ll be scrounging benefits off the state; or he’ll probably be doing time in jail for some petty theft because, the truth is, bullies just aren’t that smart and the majority of them continue their stupidity into adult life. Same goes for the female ones … That popular Queen Bee, with her minions surrounding her, is likely to fall pregnant at seventeen, go on to have six children by four different dads and turn into one of those fat heifers, trolleying her screaming kids round at the supermarket. And this happens a lot more often than you would expect. Fact is, when you’re at the top, there’s only one way you can go from there and that’s down. The kids at the top of the social hierarchy in school usually end up slipping right down to the bottom. And as for most of those weirdos, loners, nerds and freaks? Well, they go shooting right to the top! Because the unique, clever kids (the bullied kids!) get the worm. So just remember that next time some idiot decides to hurl a load of insults at you … Think how great it’ll be years down the line to relish in their ultimate downfall! (Bwahahahaha!)

Image TELL SOMEONE.

I cannot begin to stress how important this is. Now, first of all, I know how tough it is to tell someone about what’s going on. Bullies make you feel alone. They make you believe you’re insignificant and worthless. They might threaten you if you reveal you’re going to tell someone. As consequence, you feel alone and you may even feel ashamed. You must get out of this mindset right NOW. That bully has NO POWER. It’s so important you believe this – BULLIES HAVE NO POWER. What they do have are smart mouths and a way of intimidating others – but they can only intimidate you as long as you let them do it. Tell someone – a parent, an adult you trust, a sibling you trust, a friend you trust … Whoever it is, tell them! The person you tell might not be able to sweep in and destroy the bullies with one blow – but one thing it’s guaranteed to do is take a weight off your shoulders. A problem shared is a problem halved – and this is true when it comes to mental strain and suffering. You may realize that you’re not actually as alone as you thought you were. I was very lucky that my parents were extremely supportive towards me, both with my depression and the bullying. My dad always taught me to stand and fight – he told me to be tough and not give into them. That did not necessarily mean thumping them round the head with my fists (the bullying I received was not physical, it was verbal – but if they had physically bullied me, would I have physically fought back? Of course I would! Bullies pick on people they consider weak – even if you lose a fight, as long as you fight tooth-and-nail, and even if you only manage a scratch to the face or a bite to the arm, they will remember that – and will be forced to hold you in higher regard, whether they like it or not. If you can follow them home and corner them one by one, better still!  – and even better if you can gather others to help you. Just a scare, mind; enough to get them to back off. Some pacifists may strongly object to this and bleat on about the whole ‘violence is wrong’ thing. Well, no one’s saying violence is right, but where physical bullying is involved, being a ‘grass’ is even worse than taking the beatings for some victims – so better to stand, fight and take your chances – not cower and tremble at their feet! You must stand up for yourself!) My dad taught me to believe I was the strongest person out there – and the more I believed it, the less I started to fear bullies and their spiteful words. It took a long time, but as time went on, the comments became fewer and it was the bullies who started to avoid me. As a naturally shy person by nature, it was not something I had anticipated – but it was something I continue to be proud of ’til this day. And it was all because I reached out to someone I trusted, someone who loves me enough to stand and fight with me – not someone who would judge me or do nothing.

Yes, there are people who you will place your trust in and they may betray you – look at the “friend” who I told about my self-harming! She blurted it out to the entire school – and, as consequence, the nasty comments triple-folded. But I didn’t let that stop me from trusting people and neither should you let anything stop you from reaching out to someone. Because there are people who love you – people who will fight for you, if you let them. And if you truly feel there is no one, then reach out to me – and I will do what I can to help you, I promise!

To the parent, guardian, sister, brother, aunty, uncle, cousin, teacher, friend – anyone who the victim reaches out to … don’t ever turn your back on them! Not even for a second! Remember, they are fighting just to go into school everyday and face the horrors that await them – in return, you must fight to keep their spirits up and stop the bullying at all costs! Whether you’re a brother who decides to go round the bully’s house and have a ‘word’ with them or a parent who decides to start a campaign to expose these bullies for what they are in your community, or an aunt who is friends with the mother of the most popular boy in school and you ask her to tell him to defend your niece/nephew, or a friend who gathers all your other friends and corners the bullies one day, warning them to back off – then go for it! Don’t ever be afraid to act. And teachers – can you not turn a blind eye to bullying when it is being so blatantly shoved in your face? I know this is a topic they cover very little on during the teaching course (I should know – I trained to be one), but when the life or well-being of a student is at stake, the rules need to be defied and you need to act and keep acting until every one of those bullies is hanging their head in shame for what they’ve done! There are too many cases of kids who commit suicide coming to light – and, repeatedly, the teachers have failed to act. It’s not good enough just to give them detention or have a quiet word with them – bullies don’t respond to ‘quiet words’ or ‘detentions’; those “punishments” are just another notch on their badman/badgirl status! Apathy can result in loss of life – remember that.

Image  IF THE BULLYING IS ONLINE – DO NOT GO ONLINE!

This really speaks for itself. The thing about internet bullying is that, in contrast to bullying in school that is verbal or physical, internet bullying is done behind a screen to someone else behind the screen. The victim is at the distinct advantage here and I would urge anyone being abused online to just switch off their screen, close down their profiles and walk away. Why stay and have abuse hurled at you if you actually have the option to walk away? Words hurt – in verbal form and written form. When someone is screaming abuse at you down the street, you don’t have an option except to listen to it until you’re safely in your home or elsewhere. When someone’s typing nasty messages to you such as, “Why don’t you just kill yourself?” or “You look like a fat pig in a sty” or “Ewww … do something about your teeth!” JUST SWITCH THE COMPUTER OFF! Why feed into your feelings of sadness and sorrow any more than you have to? And if the online bullying coincides with offline bullying (e.g. the same people who are bullying you at school are also bullying you on the internet) STILL switch off your computer. The more outlets they are given to do it, the worse it gets. Eliminate at least one of them – in this case, the internet. The internet is filled with people who are a lot braver online than offline – I’ve come up against fifteen people at once while trying to get my point across online. I’ve sometimes engaged in nasty insulting matches with people (though never ganging up on one vulnerable individual with a group of others); I’ve been bombarded with insults from groups of people with usernames such as SweetSugarBaby123 or RagingRoller65 (…really…?). I NEVER let online disputes get to me. And if you cannot retaliate online in a way where these internet warriors shrink back after realizing they can’t get to you, then you need to walk away from that computer. Because their words will play on your mind, you’ll end up feeling even more worthless and it will do nothing more than make things even more darker than they already are.

Image  STAY STRONG

Above all – please stay strong! I know it’s easy to say from the outside. Those overpowering feelings of powerlessness, fear, self-loathing, hatred, anger, sadness … There’s no strength to be had in any of those feelings. The strength belongs to you once you’ve won the battle! Don’t let those emotions consume you. Surround yourself with things that can feed you strength. I loved to read books such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, Watership Down – all types of stories that had common values such as courage, strength, bravery and defeating the bad guys. I would read such books as much as I could – and therefore, their values became embedded in me. I would educate myself on heroes who had overcome adversity, even when people were mocking them. It fed me strength to fight back. Another thing I feel to be crucial is this: focus on your dreams. Is there a particular talent you have, a certain passion you hold? For me, the desire to be a writer when I got older often gave me extra strength to keep pushing through. Indulge in your passions and your dreams – they’re a lifeline that will keep you afloat!

I wasn’t just dealing with bullies in school who told me to kill myself – I was also dealing with demons in my head that were telling me to kill myself. But that sick stench of depression no longer lingers around me because I beat the bullies and the demons. I defeated them because I recognized I could never beat them on my own and that, if I wanted to survive, I needed the support of those who love me; I reached out to them. I read stories and watched films that were all about courage and resilience. I kept telling myself that one day those bullies would be at the bottom of the food chain and I would be at the top … a pinnacle I’m climbing my way up to right now! In essence, I won. And so will you. Just don’t ever give up. Keep on fighting – because one day you’ll look back and you’ll realize just how stupid and pathetic those cowardly bullies really were.  You’ll be so proud of the fact you’re stronger and wiser for what you went through. You’ll see how things got better and you’ll be glad you never gave in to their nasty words or cruel jibes. It’s hard to see the light that life has to offer when you’re surrounded by darkness – but it is there and it is waiting for you. You’ve just got to keep pushing through, right through all the nasty taunts, the punches, the jeers, the scathing looks. These bullies are cowards and you can’t let cowards win …  Never give up!

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