The 26-year-old, who was also a semi-professional footballer, was found dead in north London.
The death of the former Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis is not being treated as suspicious.
Police and the London ambulance service were called to a park close to Latymer Way, in Edmonton, north London, on Saturday. The police said a man was pronounced dead at the scene.
The 26-year-old reality television star and semi-professional footballer had found fame on the 2017 series of the ITV competitive dating show Love Island. He earned the nickname “Muggy Mike” after partnering with Olivia Attwood, the girlfriend of fellow islander Chris Hughes.
A statement from the Metropolitan police said: “Police were called to a park near Latymer Way, N9, at 9.28am on Saturday, 16 March. Officers and the London ambulance service attended and found a man, aged in his 20s, deceased.
“At this early stage, the death is not being treated as suspicious. Police are in the process of informing the man’s next of kin. A file will be prepared for the coroner.”
Thalassitis, who was of Cypriot descent, was born in Edmonton and played for clubs including Stevenage, St Albans, Chelmsford and Margate.
Tributes were left on Sunday outside the cafe that he planned to open. Bunches of flowers and a card were placed at the door to the business, the Skillett, in Loughton, Essex. The interior of the unit, on a small row of shops, appeared to be midway through a refurbishment.
His Love Island co-star Montana Brown had earlier written on Instagram: “I will help open your cafe with Scott because you worked so hard on it so don’t you worry!”
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email email@example.com. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org
Scarlett Moffatt returned to Twitter this week after a self-imposed social media ban. Scarlett Moffatt has indicated that she’s experiencing a ‘constant battle of emotions.’ Following a self-imposed social media ban, the vivacious TV personality, 27, agreed with a Twitter user who said that balancing a bubbly personality with ‘shitty mental health’ was confusing. Scarlett is believed to be going through her second break-up with ‘pathological liar’ Lee Wilkinson and deleted her Instagram for a week at the end of July saying she was ‘[honestly so done] with every aspect of social media.’ On her return this week, Scarlett wrote ‘agreed’ with two supportive kisses under a tweet that said: ‘Having shitty mental health but your personality being naturally bubbly & outgoing is theeee most confusing thing. Constant battle of emotions.’ Scarlett has previously spoke about how being in the spotlight affects her mental health. At the end of last month, she vented her frustration at Twitter users who insulted her appearance on Love Island: After Sun. She wrote: ‘I wanted and felt like I had to write that tweet to let you know at the end of the day I’m a 27 year old girl with feelings & a family who get upset also when they see vile comments about my appearance. Something needs to change with our society!!’ She also hinted that pap pictures were beginning to bring her down, warning that unflattering photos can affect people’s mental health. Before finding fame, the former Gogglebox star said that experiences of anxiety and dizzying panic attacks affected her on a daily basis. Writing in her autobiography Sofa, So Good, Scarlett confessed: ‘When you talk about it, it becomes less stressful. I don’t think anyone should feel like it’s a problem, because it’s not something you can help: that’s just how our brains work. ‘There’s such a stigma attached to anxiety, so it’s good to brush that away, nobody should feel embarrassed or alone. The more people talk about it, the more people will understand it and know how to act.’ ‘I still have bad days. What people need to understand about anxiety and panic attacks is that it isn’t necessarily the big things that can make you feel nervous, it can be little things too.’
“I was taken away from normal life essentially at an age where I was half-formed,” Blake said, referencing his newfound fame he experienced in his early 20s after tracks like ‘Wilhelm Scream’ and ‘Limit to Your Love’ were released. “Your connection to other people becomes surface level. So if you were only in town for one day and someone asked you how you are, you go into the good stuff…which generally doesn’t involve how anxious you feel [or] how depressed you feel.”
Additionally, he discussed how impactful his (bad) eating habits were on tour, a complaint often felt by touring artists. “I would say that chemical imbalance due to diet and the deterioration of my health was a huge, huge factor in my depression and eventual suicidal thoughts,” he said. “I developed [dietary] intolerances that would lead to existential depression on a daily basis. I would eat a certain thing and then all day I would feel like there was just no point.”
Additionally, and possibly alluding to his previous statements about being labeled a “sad boy”, Blake dispelled the common notion that an artist must suffer in order to succeed, creatively. “There is this myth that you have to be anxious to be creative, that you have to be depressed to be a genius. I can truly say that anxiety has never helped me create. And I’ve watched it destroy my friends’ creative process too.”
Blake also shared his experience with an experimental treatment called EMDR therapy, which uses rapid eye movement to allow patients to “reprocess” traumatic experiences. Along with his girlfriend, with whom he lives with in Los Angeles, Blake explained that he found success in simply cutting ties with negative sources. “Honestly, a lot of catharsis just came in telling lots of people to fuck off. And saying no. Saying no to constant touring. No [amount of] money will ever be enough.”
He concluded his time on the panel by pointing out that “we’ve reached a critical point”. “We are the generation that’s watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them. And there are so many high-profile people recently who’ve taken their own lives. So we, I think, have a responsibility to talk about it and to remove the stigma.”
Read more about DJs and artists opening up about mental health here
Friends from within the Scottish music scene have spoken of the “pure joy” Scott Hutchison brought to their lives – and the impact his music had on his fans.
The Frightened Rabbit singer’s body was found on Thursday night near North Queensferry, almost two days after he was reported missing.
Scott – who had talked openly about his mental health and depression – had written a tweet late on Tuesday saying “I’m away now.”
His friends say his legacy will live on in his music, which helped so many deal with their own struggles.
Roddy Woomble, the lead singer of Idlewild, told BBC Scotland that he struck up a friendship with Scott because of a mutual admiration for each others’ work.
Roddy said that when they first met, Scott had told him how he’d grown up listening to Idlewild.
But Roddy was blown away when he started listening to Frightened Rabbit.
‘The soundtrack to people’s lives’
He said: “Frightened Rabbit’s music is beautiful. Scott was an extremely talented songwriter because he could make a connection with his audience. It’s not something everybody can do.
“When you write lyrics that make sense, are honest and from your heart then other people can understand them.
“Songs can have such a big impact, especially if they hit you at the right time in life.
“Frightened Rabbit have been around for 15 years now, so they will have been the soundtrack to some people’s lives. A generation grew up listening to them.
“If you were 15 when you got into them, you are 30 now, and that’s an important and influential portion of your life.
“You remember that kind of music for the rest of your life.
“His music meant so much to people and it’s sad that he felt that alone when he was surrounded by so many people who loved him.”
Scott had spoken openly about his mental health and his battle with depression.
He talked about it in song lyrics, and sometimes in interviews.
In an interview last year, he said: “Sometimes I wish I had a better mode of communication for when I’m feeling depressed, anxious, any of those things, but it tends to just work itself out into a song.
“That’s the way it’s always been for me.”
Roddy said he had never seen a “darkness” in Scott.
‘I don’t want to believe it’
“You could see in his eyes there was something going on, and obviously through his music and lyrics you could hear it,” he said.
“But my experience of him was one of pure joy – he was a joy to spend time with.
“Once we got to know each other we hung around socially. One of the last times I saw him was at the International Book Festival in Edinburgh last year. Afterwards we went out to Optimo.”
Roddy said he knew Scott as “a gregarious guy”.
He added: “He seemed to love that socialising, the being with people.
“It’s terribly sad and I am devastated. I just don’t want to believe it.
“I knew that Scott struggled with mental health issues and depression but I just didn’t think it would come to this.”
Radio Scotland DJ Vic Galloway became friends with Scott after he started playing Frightened Rabbit on his show.
He said: “I considered Scott a friend, not just somebody I play on the radio.
“I have been playing Scott on the radio for more than a decade, probably since about 2006. I champion new music and am always on the hunt for something interesting.
“Then along came Frightened Rabbit.
“I started playing their stuff and featuring them live in session and as a result I got to know him.
“He was a down to earth, funny, straight forward sort of guy which is why I can’t really get my head around all of this.
“He was an emotional guy – you can tell by the lyrics of all of his songs, right from the beginning all the way to the Mastersystem album.”
He added: “He wore his heart on his sleeve and I could tell when I was hanging out with him that he considered what he was saying all the time.
“Scott was an intelligent man, he checked himself the whole time.
“I tended to see him when he was out and about at gigs or parties, and he was on good form.
“He was a tender guy, but I never thought it would go to this extreme.
“He was always cheerful when I saw him. He might have been cynical about life but he was always laughing at it.
“This is obviously internal angst and the battle he was going through has manifested itself in his actions.
“It was a side that I didn’t see personally very often.”
‘He sang from his heart’
Vic added: “His songs dealt with heartache, mental health, and the day to day trouble and strife that people go through. That’s why it connected with people.
“He sang from his heart, he sang from the bottom of his lungs, he really gave it everything he could on stage and on record.
“Scott’s passing will be mourned in Scotland and across the world.
“The poignant descriptions of the state of his own heart and his own vulnerabilities.
“Those songs will resonate with people for years to come.”
Isabella Goldie, director of development at the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, met Scott when he helped campaign with the charity.
During that time he ran music events, produced a CD and worked with a small music mentoring charity to help people suffering mental health issues to promote their music.
She said he was a generous and kind person, and “nothing was too much to ask of him”.
‘Demons and struggles’
Isabella added: “When I first worked with Scott about 10 years ago, he was really happy and optimistic.
“But over the years it started to become obvious that his moods had become a major issue for him.
“We were all concerned and did reach out to Scott but it’s really difficult for men to speak out and accept that help.
“We have somehow created a society in which it is really difficult for men to come forward and say how they feel.
“Obviously he had his own demons and struggles and it is beyond sad that he couldn’t manage those.”
Before I begin, I want to warn you that this talk touches on many triggering subjects, including self-harm and suicide. I also want you to know that I’m speaking from my personal experience, and that if you or someone you know may be living with mental illness, please talk to a licensed and qualified medical professional, because I am not a doctor.
Okay, let’s do this.
Hi, I’m Wil Wheaton. I’m 45 years-old, I have a wonderful wife, two adult children who make me proud every day, and a daughter in-law who I love like she’s my own child. I work on the most popular comedy series in the world, I’ve been a New York Times Number One Bestselling Audiobook narrator, I have run out of space in my office for the awards I’ve received for my work, and as a white, heterosexual, cisgender man in America, I live life on the lowest difficulty setting – with the Celebrity cheat enabled.
My life is, by every objective measurement, very very good.
And in spite of all of that, I struggle every day with my self esteem, my self worth, and my value not only as an actor and writer, but as a human being.
That’s because I live with Depression and Anxiety, the tag team champions of the World Wrestling With Mental Illness Federation.
And I’m not ashamed to stand here, in front of six hundred people in this room, and millions more online, and proudly say that I live with mental illness, and that’s okay. I say “with” because even though my mental illness tries its best, it doesn’t control me, it doesn’t define me, and I refuse to be stigmatized by it.
So. My name is Wil Wheaton, and I have Chronic Depression.
It took me over thirty years to be able to say those ten words, and I suffered for most of them as a result. I suffered because though we in America have done a lot to help people who live with mental illness, we have not done nearly enough to make it okay for our fellow travelers on the wonky brain express to reach out and accept that help.
I’m here today to talk with you about working to end the stigma and prejudice that surrounds mental illness in America, and as part of that, I want to share my story with you.
When I was a little kid, probably seven or eight years old, I started having panic attacks. Back then, we didn’t know that’s what they were, and because they usually happened when I was asleep, the adults in my life just thought I had nightmares. Well, I did have nightmares, but they were so much worse than just bad dreams. Night after night, I’d wake up in absolute terror, and night after night, I’d drag my blankets off my bed, to go to sleep on the floor in my sister’s bedroom, because I was so afraid to be alone.
There were occasional stretches of relief, sometimes for months at a time, and during those months, I felt like what I considered to be a normal kid, but the panic attacks always came back, and each time they came back, they seemed worse than before.
When I was around twelve or thirteen, my anxiety began to express itself in all sorts of delightful ways.
I worried about everything. I was tired all the time, and irritable most of the time. I had no confidence and terrible self-esteem. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone who wanted to be close to me, because I was convinced that I was stupid and worthless and the only reason anyone would want to be my friend was to take advantage of my fame.
This is important context. When I was thirteen, I was in an internationally-beloved film called Stand by Me, and I was famous. Like, really famous, like, can’t-go-to-the-mall-with-my-friends-without-getting-mobbed famous, and that meant that all of my actions were scrutinized by my parents, my peers, my fans, and the press. All the weird, anxious feelings I had all the time? I’d been raised to believe that they were shameful. That they reflected poorly on my parents and my family. That they should be crammed down deep inside me, shared with nobody, and kept secret.
My panic attacks happened daily, and not just when I was asleep. When I tried to reach out to the adults in my life for help, they didn’t take me seriously. When I was on the set of a tv show or commercial, and I was having a hard time breathing because I was so anxious about making a mistake and getting fired? The directors and producers complained to my parents that I was being difficult to work with. When I was so uncomfortable with my haircut or my crooked teeth and didn’t want to pose for teen magazine photos, the publicists told me that I was being ungrateful and trying to sabotage my success. When I couldn’t remember my lines, because I was so anxious about things I can’t even remember now, directors would accuse me of being unprofessional and unprepared. And that’s when my anxiety turned into depression.
(I’m going to take a moment for myself right now, and I’m going to tear a hole in the fabric of spacetime and I’m going to tell all those adults from the past: give this kid a break. He’s scared. He’s confused. He is doing the best he can, and if you all could stop seeing him as a way to put money into your pockets, maybe you could see that he’s suffering and needs help.)
I was miserable a lot of the time, and it didn’t make any sense. I was living a childhood dream, working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and getting paid to do what I loved. I had all the video games and board games I ever wanted, and did I mention that I was famous?
I struggled to reconcile the facts of my life with the reality of my existence. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what. And because I didn’t know what, I didn’t know how to ask for help.
I wish I had known that I had a mental illness that could be treated! I wish I had known that that the way I felt wasn’t normal and it wasn’t necessary. I wish I had known that I didn’t deserve to feel bad, all the time.
And I didn’t know those things, because Mental Illness was something my family didn’t talk about, and when they did, they talked about it like it was something that happened to someone else, and that it was something they should be ashamed of, because it was a result of something they did. This prejudice existed in my family in spite of the ample incidence of mental illness that ran rampant through my DNA, featuring successful and unsuccessful suicide attempts by my relations, more than one case of bipolar disorder, clinical depression everywhere, and, because of self-medication, so much alcoholism, it was actually notable when someone didn’t have a drinking problem.
Now, I don’t blame my parents for how they addressed – or more accurately didn’t address – my mental illness, because I genuinely believe they were blind to the symptoms I was exhibiting. They grew up and raised me in the world I’ve spent the last decade of my life trying to change. They lived in a world where mental illness was equated with weakness, and shame, and as a result, I suffered until I was in my thirties.
And it’s not like I never reached out for help. I did! I just didn’t know what questions to ask, and the adults I was close to didn’t know what answers to give.
I clearly remember being twenty-two, living in my own house, waking up from a panic attack that was so terrifying just writing about it for this talk gave me so much anxiety I almost cut this section from my speech. It was the middle of the night, and I drove across town, to my parents’ house, to sleep on the floor of my sister’s bedroom again, because at least that’s where I felt safe. The next morning, I tearfully asked my mom what was wrong with me. She knew that many of my blood relatives had mental illness, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t connect the dots. “You’re just realizing that the world is a scary place,” she said.
Yeah, no kidding. The world terrifies me every night of my life and I don’t know why or how to stop it.
Again, I don’t blame her and neither should you. She really was doing the best that she could for me, but stigma and the shame is inspires are powerful things.
I want to be very clear on this: Mom, I know you’re going to read this or hear this and I know it’s going to make you upset. I want you to know that I love you, and I know that you did the very best you could. I’m telling my story, though, so someone else’s mom can see the things you didn’t, through no fault of your own.
Through my twenties, I continued to suffer, and not just from nightmares and panic attacks. I began to develop obsessive behaviors that I’ve never talked about in public until right now. Here’s a very incomplete list: I began to worry that the things I did would affect the world around me in totally irrational ways. I would hold my breath underneath bridges when I was driving, because if I didn’t, maybe I’d crash my car. I would tap the side of an airplane with my hand while I was boarding, and tell it to take care of me when I flew places for work, because I was convinced that if I didn’t, the plane would crash. Every single time I said goodbye to someone I cared about, my brain would play out in vivid detail how I would remember this as the last time I saw them. Talking about those memories, even without getting into specifics, is challenging. It’s painful to recall, but I’m not ashamed, because all those thoughts – which I thankfully don’t have any more, thanks to medical science and therapy – were not my fault any more than the allergies that clog my sinuses when the trees in my neighborhood start doin’ it every spring are my fault. It’s just part of who I am. It’s part of how my brain is wired, and because I know that, I can medically treat it, instead of being a victim of it.
One of the primary reasons I speak out about my mental illness, is so that I can make the difference in someone’s life that I wish had been made in mine when I was young, because not only did I have no idea what Depression even was until I was in my twenties, once I was pretty sure that I had it, I suffered with it for another fifteen years, because I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, and I was afraid.
So I am here today to tell anyone who can hear me: if you suspect that you have a mental illness, there is no reason to be ashamed, or embarrassed, and most importantly, you do not need to be afraid. You do not need to suffer. There is nothing noble in suffering, and there is nothing shameful or weak in asking for help. This may seem really obvious to a lot of you, but it wasn’t for me, and I’m a pretty smart guy, so I’m going to say it anyway: There is no reason to feel embarrassed when you reach out to a professional for help, because the person you are reaching out to is someone who has literally dedicated their life to helping people like us live, instead of merely exist.
That difference, between existing and living, is something I want to focus on for a minute: before I got help for my anxiety and depression, I didn’t truly live my life. I wanted to go do things with my friends, but my anxiety always found a way to stop me. Traffic would just be too stressful, it would tell me. It’s going to be a real hassle to get there and find parking, it would helpfully observe. And if those didn’t stop me from leaving my house, there was always the old reliable: What if…? Ah, “What if… something totally unlikely to happen actually happens? What if the plane crashes? What if I sit next to someone who freaks me out? What if they laugh at me? What if I get lost? What if I get robbed? What if I get locked out of my hotel room? What if I slip on some ice I didn’t see? What if there’s an earthquake? What if what if what if what if…
When I look back on most of my life, it breaks my heart that when my brain was unloading an endless pile of what ifs on me, it never asked, “What if I go do this thing that I want to do, and it’s … fun? What if I enjoy myself, and I’m really glad I went?”
I have to tell you a painful truth: I missed out on a lot of things, during what are supposed to be the best years of my life, because I was paralyzed by What If-ing anxiety.
All the things that people do when they are living their lives … all those experiences that make up a life, my anxiety got in between me and doing them. So I wasn’t living. I was just existing.
And through it all, I never stopped to ask myself if this was normal, or healthy, or even if it was my fault. I just knew that I was nervous about stuff, and I worried a lot. For my entire childhood, my mom told me that I was a worry wart, and my dad said I was overly dramatic about everything, and that’s just the way it was.
Except it didn’t have to be that way, and it took me having a full blown panic attack and a complete meltdown at Los Angeles International Airport for my wife to suggest to me that I get help.
Like I said, I had suspected for years that I was clinically depressed, but I was afraid to admit it, until the most important person in my life told me without shame or judgment that she could see that I was suffering. So I went to see a doctor, and I will never forget what he said, when I told him how afraid I was: “Please let me help you.”
I think it was then, at about 34 years-old, that I realized that Mental Illness is not weakness. It’s just an illness. I mean, it’s right there in the name “Mental ILLNESS” so it shouldn’t have been the revelation that it was, but when the part of our bodies that is responsible for how we perceive the world and ourselves is the same part of our body that is sick, it can be difficult to find objectivity or perspective.
So I let my doctor help me. I started a low dose of an antidepressant, and I waited to see if anything was going to change.
And boy did it.
My wife and I were having a walk in our neighborhood and I realized that it was just a really beautiful day – it was warm with just a little bit of a breeze, the birds sounded really beautiful, the flowers smelled really great and my wife’s hand felt really good in mine.
And as we were walking I just started to cry and she asked me, “what’s wrong?”
I said “I just realized that I don’t feel bad and I just realized that I’m not existing, I’m living.”
At that moment, I realized that I had lived my life in a room that was so loud, all I could do every day was deal with how loud it was. But with the help of my wife, my doctor, and medical science, I found a doorway out of that room.
I had taken that walk with my wife almost every day for nearly ten years, before I ever noticed the birds or the flowers, or how loved I felt when I noticed that her hand was holding mine. Ten years – all of my twenties – that I can never get back. Ten years of suffering and feeling weak and worthless and afraid all the time, because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
I’m not religious, but I can still say Thank God for Anne Wheaton. Thank God for her love and support. Thank God that my wife saw that I was hurting, and thank God she didn’t believe the lie that Depression is weakness, or something to be ashamed of. Thank God for Anne, because if she hadn’t had the strength to encourage me to seek professional help, I don’t know how much longer I would have been able to even exist, to say nothing of truly living.
I started talking in public about my mental illness in 2012, and ever since then, people reach out to me online every day, and they ask me about living with depression and anxiety. They share their stories, and ask me how I get through a bad day, or a bad week.
Here’s one of the things I tell them:
One of the many delightful things about having Depression and Anxiety is occasionally and unexpectedly feeling like the whole goddamn world is a heavy lead blanket, like that thing they put on your chest at the dentist when you get x-rays, and it’s been dropped around your entire existence without your consent.
Physically, it weighs heavier on me in some places than it does in others. I feel it tugging at the corners of my eyes, and pressing down on the center of my chest. When it’s really bad, it can feel like one of those dreams where you try to move, but every step and every motion feels like you’re struggling to move through something heavy and viscous. Emotionally, it covers me completely, separating me from my motivation, my focus, and everything that brings me joy in my life.
When it drops that lead apron over us, we have to remind ourselves that one of the things Depression does, to keep itself strong and in charge, is tell us lies, like: I am the worst at everything. Nobody really likes me. I don’t deserve to be happy. This will never end. And so on and so on. We can know, in our rational minds, that this is a giant bunch of bullshit (and we can look at all these times in our lives when were WERE good at a thing, when we genuinely felt happy, when we felt awful but got through it, etc.) but in the moment, it can be a serious challenge to wait for Depression to lift the roadblock that’s keeping us from moving those facts from our rational mind to our emotional selves.
And that’s the thing about Depression: we can’t force it to go away. As I’ve said, if I could just “stop feeling sad” I WOULD. (And, also, Depression isn’t just feeling sad, right? It’s a lot of things together than can manifest themselves into something that is most easily simplified into “I feel sad.”)
So another step in our self care is to be gentle with ourselves. Depression is beating up on us already, and we don’t need to help it out. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that you’re feeling terrible (or bad, or whatever it is you are feeling), and then do a little thing, just one single thing, that you probably don’t feel like doing, and I PROMISE you it will help. Some of those things are:
Take a shower.
Eat a nutritious meal.
Take a walk outside (even if it’s literally to the corner and back).
Do something – throw a ball, play tug of war, give belly rubs – with a dog. Just about any activity with my dogs, even if it’s just a snuggle on the couch for a few minutes, helps me.
Do five minutes of yoga stretching.
Listen to a guided meditation and follow along as best as you can.
Finally, please trust me and know that this shitty, awful, overwhelming, terrible way you feel IS NOT FOREVER. It will get better. It always gets better. You are not alone in this fight, and you are OK.
Right now, there is a child somewhere who has the same panic attacks I had, and their parents aren’t getting them help, because they believe it reflects poorly on their parenting to have a child with mental illness. Right now, there is a teenager who is contemplating self harm, because they don’t know how to reach out and ask for help. Right now, there are too many people struggling just to get to the end of the day, because they can’t afford the help that a lot of us can’t live without. But there are also people everywhere who are picking up the phone and making an appointment. There are parents who have learned that mental illness is no different than physical illness, and they’re helping their children get better. There are adults who, like me, were terrified that antidepressant medication would make them a different person, and they’re hearing the birds sing for the first time, because they have finally found their way out of the dark room.
I spent the first thirty years of my life trapped in that dark, loud room, and I know how hopeless and suffocating it feels to be in there, so I do everything I can to help others find their way out. I do that by telling my story, so that my privilege and success does more than enrich my own life. I can live by example for someone else the way Jenny Lawson lives by example for me.
But I want to leave you today with some suggestions for things that we can all do, even if you’re not Internet Famous like I am, to help end the stigma of mental illness, so that nobody has to merely exist, when they could be living.
We can start by demanding that our elected officials fully fund mental health programs. No person anywhere, especially here in the richest country in the world, should live in the shadows or suffer alone, because they can’t afford treatment. We have all the money in the world for weapons and corporate tax cuts, so I know that we can afford to prioritize not just health care in general, but mental health care, specifically.
And until our elected officials get their acts together, we can support organizations like NAMI, that offer low and no-cost assistance to anyone who asks for it. We can support organizations like Project UROK, that work tirelessly to end stigmatization and remind us that we are sick, not weak.
We can remember, and we can remind each other, that there is no finish line when it comes to mental illness. It’s a journey, and sometimes we can see the path we’re on all the way to the horizon, while other times we can’t even see five feet in front of us because the fog is so thick. But the path is always there, and if we can’t locate it on our own, we have loved ones and doctors and medications to help us find it again, as long as we don’t give up trying to see it.
Finally, we who live with mental illness need to talk about it, because our friends and neighbors know us and trust us. It’s one thing for me to stand here and tell you that you’re not alone in this fight, but it’s something else entirely for you to prove it. We need to share our experiences, so someone who is suffering the way I was won’t feel weird or broken or ashamed or afraid to seek treatment. So that parents don’t feel like they have failed or somehow screwed up when they see symptoms in their kids.
People tell me that I’m brave for speaking out the way I do, and while I appreciate that, I don’t necessarily agree. Firefighters are brave. Single parents who work multiple jobs to take care of their kids are brave. The Parkland students are brave. People who reach out to get help for their mental illness are brave. I’m not brave. I’m just a writer and occasional actor who wants to share his privilege and good fortune with the world, who hopes to speak out about mental health so much that one day, it will be wholly unremarkable to stand up and say fifteen words:
My name is Wil Wheaton, I live with chronic depression, and I am not ashamed.
Thank you for listening to me, and please be kind to each other.