I logged on ten minutes ago to discover that one of my most loved artists had died, from what I’m guessing will be found to be one of two things: suicide or a drug overdose. I’ll frankly be pretty surprised if they find anything else, though perhaps the strain of constant drug use at high levels put a lot of strain on that wee body.
Amy Winehouse was a wonderfully talented creative person, whose career I followed through my early twenties until now.
I’d like to say how saddened I am by her passing, because I feel it epitomises how destructive being non-neurotypical can be without the right support – even when you have, seemingly, the world at your feet and all the cash you need to burn.
This is the thing about madness/mental illness/non-neurotypicality. Presuming it is negatively impacting your life and stopping you from functioning in a way that is healthy for you, presuming it is actively making itself a problem – well, dealing with that in the current social framework we have is tricky.
I feel like Amy was failed, and so too all the other self medicating, not-coping individuals out there. She didn’t fail, she simply didn’t make it, because she was caught up inside a brain that – without adequate help – wouldn’t let her do so.
Every time a ‘star’ dies, I get angry at how we either glamourise their death or deride it. How about this – despite all their money, exposure and connections, they’re still human beings trying to make sense of a world that’s hard to negotiate. Sure, they have a lot of privilege. But mental illness/madness doesn’t pick and choose targets, and if you’re ill, there’s not a lot that money can do to help you.
It can’t make medications work for you, or make you want to take them. It can’t give you a supportive family or a close network of trusted friends, and might actually work to destroy that I’m imagining. It can’t make you a health care system which – even at it’s best – will deal properly with mental health.
Most of all, it can’t change a culture which boils a young woman with legitimate mental health issues who is wildly self medicating to cope and struggling with addiction, down to a glib “bitch be crazy”.
Given that I have had my own journey with mental-not-wellness boiled down to this – and I’m a nobody! – by loved ones close to me, I’m not at all surprised that somebody this high-profile has been and will be reduced to a footnote for people to mock and judge.
This is rather bitter, since it is those that mock and judge who participate in creating the culture that effectively killed Amy Winehouse.
We need to be doing more from younger ages to educate, provide and shelter our young people so they can be ok. The British health system is just as fucked as the Australian one, though probably nowhere is as royally screwed as the US mental health system.
And outside of the system, outside of governments, we need to check ourselves at individual levels and ask – what are we doing for our friends? Our family members? Do we know how they are? Do we bother to check in or do we keep our distance because they seem ‘strange’ or ‘whiny’ or ‘unstable’? Are we providing enough love and lateral support before an intervention or hospitalisation may even be needed? And if that occurs, how are we handling it?
It takes a village. And the village is looking pretty empty to me, most of the time.