BY MIA FREEDMAN
If you haven’t, you might see bad parents. Parents doing the wrong thing by their son. Parents too caught up in their own lives. Parents with misplaced priorities. Parents being selfish.
But you wouldn’t have a clue.
They recognise the fatigue and despair, the devastation and guilt, the loyalty and shame, the anguish and love, the exasperation and the stubborn hope that things can get better. That their son can be saved from himself.
Our society is incredibly tough on people who don’t appear to display the ‘right’ emotions in public. Remember Lindy Chamberlain? Joanne Lees, partner of English backpacker Peter Falconio who was murdered in the Northern Territory? After losing loved ones in horrific circumstances, they then had to endure the nasty innuendo. ‘She didn’t look THAT upset’ people said. ‘Where were the tears?’ ‘I reckon she was involved...’
Because we absolutely knew how we’d behave if it happened to us and it wasn’t what we saw on the news. Right?
Armchair criticism of public figures is a disingenuous game. I keep hearing people say “Why is Matt Newton in America? Why don’t his parents go and get him? What are they doing on TV instead of helping their son?”
Well, think about your own parents. If you decided to leave the country or stop taking medication or break the law could they do much about it? Assuming you are over the age of 18, it’s unlikely.
As Matthew Newton’s world continues to implode, it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s unwell. But this isn’t actually about Matthew Newton. This is about the scathing attitude towards his parents that’s been seeping into the conversation.
Bert and Patti Newton’s lives have been in the public eye since before their children were born. They’re entertainers and TV personalities. That’s their job and yet this appears to offend some people. So what’s their alternative?
If someone you loved was in trouble – and had been for years – would you quit your job? Even if you knew you were facing years of supporting them financially? Would you drop everything and rush to their side to ‘save’ them again and again? Even if they refused your help? Would you put your own life on hold forever?
For families of mentally ill people who behave in erratic, destructive ways, their lives are a prison. Friends and partners can drift away and invariably do. But families do not. Cannot. For them, it’s a never-ending struggle between loving the person and hating their disease.