Trigger warning: This post deals with suicide. Some readers may find the article triggering.
Samuel Johnson doesn’t want your sympathy. Support, maybe – and especially if it’s channeled into ways to help his beloved sister Connie fundraise for cancer – but not sympathy.
Which in turn proves to be the most difficult paradox. Because in hearing about Johnson’s story, and the subsequent heartbreak that has marred a great portion of it, a knee-jerk, innate reaction would be to feel sorry.
As many of us now know, behind the bright lights of the small screen and the occasional trappings of fame, Samuel Johnson has had three women close to him suicide. His sister Connie is battling a cancer doctors tell her she will not beat. Like many of the actors around him, his story isn’t glamorous, despite the assumptions we project onto those who grace our screens.
And in an interview with Mia Freedman on her No Filter podcast, Johnson has some weighty words about suicide and namely, they way we inherently discuss it.
“Suicide’s been a theme for me my whole life,” he said.
“I’ve got a few problems with the way suicide’s treated in this country. I certainly don’t like the way people who commit suicide are labelled as weak, or as selfish. I think that’s really unfair. That’s making it about your feelings. Anyone who does say that needs to have a think about it before they throw that stuff around. It’s really dangerous.”
Mostly, Johnson finds our sympathy misplaced. Don’t feel sorry for him, he says, but for the ones who were wrapped up in so much pain, death was the only way to claw out.
“You have to be propelled by insane amounts of pain. And I think it’s really insensitive to say ‘how could you leave your loved ones behind?’
The Secret Life of Samuel Johnson. Post continues after audio.
“I don’t resent my mother for it.”
When the actor was three and living with his family in the Victorian country town of Daylesford, his mother died by suicide. By his own admission, he has “no memories of her”.
“She was seriously sick before she died and had tried countless times. How could I blame her for that?”
“I had a weird acceptance of it.”
In 2006, Johnson’s girlfriend Lainie Woodlands died. She had been battling long-term mental health issues, and life came into sharp focus for then 27-year-old Johnson when Woodlands passed.