There is no blame here.
WARNING: This post deals with the themes of mental illness and suicide and some readers may find it distressing.
This week, Cathriona White died in her home. There were pills beside her body, and a note.
A few hours before, she wrote a Tweet: “I hope I have been a light to my nearest and dearest”, a universal sentiment that is now the subject of deep scrutiny.
Signing off Twitter, I hope I have been a light to my nearest and dearest. ✌????️❤️ to yo all
— Cathriona white (@littleirishcat) September 24, 2015
Thirty-year-old White was born in Ireland and worked as a make-up artist. Apparently she had been in an “on again, off again” relationship with actor, Jim Carrey. Four days before she died, her relationship with Carrey ended.
Whether this was just another one of the couple’s apparent “off-again” stages is not clear. Like many people, Carrey had public commitments that he fulfilled after his break-up with White. He went to an event on the same night that she died. Guests sat that he was smiling at the event. Smiling and talking to women. That was, it seems, a big mistake.
Across the internet, headlines have sought to implicate Carrey in White’s death.
“Jim Carrey pictured smiling and chatting to multiple women at a party the day he broke up with his 28-year-old girlfriend.”
“Cathriona White’s suicide note contained boyfriend Jim Carrey’s name, says Coroner.”
The implication is clear: Jim Carrey is to blame for Cathriona’s suicide. He broke up with her. He was talking to other women. Him, him, him.
A similar thing happened when Robin Williams passed away. The media was quick to blame his wife, Susan Schneider – she went on a holiday without him, she said weird things, she didn’t behave in the way that a partner was supposed to behave. What she did, what she said, who she was – some combination of those things must have robbed us of a great man.
This kind of ‘blame and shame’ analysis is perverse and deeply unhelpful. More importantly, it’s inaccurate. Inevitably in the face of suicide, there is a rush to find reasons. Friends and family ask themselves, “What if…”. They wonder what more could have been done or said.
For some reason, we seem to feel that suicide is preventable. And if it’s preventable, the thinking goes, then someone could have done something. SomeTHING must have triggered it. SomeONE must have triggered it.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When it comes to suicide, there never is A Reason. The person was unwell. They had a medical condition that led them to take their own life. It’s always tragic, but attempting to point the finger unhelpful and unrealistic.
Headlines like those we’ve seen this week about Cathriona and Carrey, and previously about Robin Williams and his wife, also send a bad message to the people left behind. It perpetuates the myth that someone is always to blame – and that compounds the family’s pain.
If someone had a sore tooth, there would be no witch-hunt for a reason or a wider purpose. If Cathriona had been diagnosed with kidney failure, Jim Carrey would not have been to blame. If Robin Williams had a heart attack, no one would be looking at his wife with deep suspicion.
An ear ache, a genetic condition, a heart attack, an ingrown toenail, depression. All medical conditions. All without a person to blame. All without the need to accuse, or a feeling of recrimination.
Depression is a nightmare. Most people survive it. Some people don’t. No one is to blame. A medical condition just is. Sometimes it can be treated. Sometimes it can’t.
There is no one to blame but depression itself.