Rita Moreno is more than an icon. She is a trailblazer who opened the door for non-POC performers to not only have a career, but to play roles than were more than the servant or the background character. She also dealt with mental illness and lived to tell the tale.
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It premiered a couple of weeks ago on the PBS series American Masters. The documentary follows her life and career from her early days playing “ethnic” characters to her current status as one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Best known for her role as Anita in 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, it was one of the first (if not the first) fully fleshed out Latino characters on the big screen. Up until that point, Latinx performers either had to hide who they were (a la Rita Hayworth) or play a stereotypical characters ( e.g. Carmen Miranda).
While I was not surprised that she was sexually assaulted. Then, as now, women are still seen as sex objects to be used and thrown away when our usefulness outside of the bedroom has vanished. What I was surprised is that she has lived with mental health problems for decades and survived a suicide attempt. I found her honesty to be refreshing and comforting. It was as if she was saying “I did it, you can too”.
If I could, I would send an invite to watch this film to anyone whose life is complicated by mental illness. If it provides one person at least a brief respite from the mess in our heads and the push to ask for help, I would be satisfied.
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is available for streamingon the PBS website.
Mental health, like any disease does not discriminate between rich and poor, black and white, celebrity and non-celebrity.
Five years ago today, mental health took the life of one of our most beloved performers: Robin Williams.
He was more than a comic who could do impressions. He could play drama, he could play comedy and everything in between. Underneath all of his performances was a huge heart that was evident to anyone in the audience.
This past week, his eldest son, Zak, spoke to CNN about his father.
When it comes to those who are no longer with us because of suicide, there are always questions that start with what if. While the question is certainly valid, at a certain point, we need to ask other questions. I firmly believe that we need to not only accept mental health issues as a valid disease, but treat it as a valid disease.
When confronting a problem, the first and hardest step is to ask for help. The issue with mental health is that many are afraid to ask for help because of the backlash they may receive.
Mental health and the diseases that fall under the categories of mental illness are real. The sooner we accept that, stop stigmatizing mental illness and open the doors to treatment, the better our country and our world will be.
Jeffrey Epstein is a coward. He knew what he did was wrong. He knew that when he went to trial, he would have to look at the women who he took advantage of as young girls. He knew that he would pay for his crimes.
Instead, he took the easy way out. In taking his own life, he took away the opportunity from his victims to obtain justice for what he did to them. Though he will not be sitting in a jail cell for the rest of his days, I hope that judgement comes on the other side.
May he rot in Hades for what he did to those women.
When a loved one dies of a physical health issue or a random accident, the common response for the deceased loved ones is sympathy. When a loved one dies from suicide due to mental illness, the common response is not always sympathy.
In 2017, Dr. Jennifer Ashton thought that she had it all: two happy and healthy children, a career as a respected physician and an amicable relationship with her ex-husband. Then her ex-husband committed suicide.
In her new memoir, Life after Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort and Community after Unthinkable Loss, Dr. Ashton writes about the unexpected death of her ex-husband and how it changed her life. In this deeply personal memoir, Dr. Ashton takes the reader through the bumpy road from grief to acceptance. She also includes the stories of other women who have lost loved ones to suicide and how they learned to cope with their new reality.
I found this book to be one of the best books on mental illness that I have read in a long time. When we talk about suicide, we often talk about the person who took their own life, forgetting that their loved ones are dealing with an unimaginable loss and questions with answers that are not so black and white.
I recommend this book not just for those who are suffering from mental illness, but for those who love them. If nothing else, it will hopefully open the door to a conversation and perhaps save a few lives.
Bullying in school is unfortunately, for many students, part and parcel of the education experience for many students.
Jamel Myles should be joining his peers for a new school year. Instead, he lies in his grave. He killed himself last week after experiencing an entire school year in which he and his older sister were constantly bullied. According to his mother, Leia Pierce, the administration did nothing to stop the bullying, especially after her son came out to her over the summer.
The boy’s grandmother, Jacque Miller, disagree’s with her daughter.
“The statement that it takes a village to raise a child is true,” she said. “And the village is broken.”
I agree with both statements. While the administration played it’s part, I believe that our overall culture had a hand in the unnecessary suicide of a young boy. Many members of the LGBTQ community experience bullying, regardless of whether they are in the close or out of the closet. There is also, from my perspective, a permissive attitude of parents and teachers that bullying in school is normal and part of the educational experience. It shouldn’t be, but it is. We should be teaching our children and ourselves to at least respect others, even if they are different or if we disagree with them.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to bring Jamel Myles back to life. But, we can honor his memory and the memory of too many who have taken their lives due to bullying by teaching our children and ourselves to respect others.
It’s a proven fact that many who suffer from mental health issues have considered or have acted on suicidal thoughts. In the United States, suicide is quickly become one of the leading causes of death. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Writer Jennifer Michael Hecht knows all too well the pain that losing a loved one to suicide brings. Her 2013 book, Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It, was inspired by the loss of two friends to suicide. In the book, Ms. Hecht examines how suicide was viewed in the past by different cultures and how these cultures argued against suicide. She also examines how attitudes in regards to suicide have changed, but the reasons to live remain the same.
This book was not only well written, but eye opening. Suicide has been part of the human experience for an untold number of generations. For me, living with mental illness, the most important reason for reading this book was the argument that life is worth it. Suicide is permanent, pain can and does heal.
Depression is like a dark cloud that refuses to dissipate. Professional success, a solid marriage, happy children and supportive family/friends can often mean nothing when one lives with depression. The dark thoughts are insidious, invading the thoughts and psyche of the person suffering until for some the only way to get ride of them is take your own life.
Ms. Spade was found this morning by her housekeeper. While there has not been an official ruling on her passing, speculation is pointing to suicide caused by depression.
She leaves behind her husband, her teenage daughter, a fashion empire and many who will miss her terribly.
What breaks my heart is that she had every reason to live, but that was not enough in the fight against mental illness.
If you are suffering, please seek help. Whether it is through your clergy person, a therapist, a trusted loved one or another resource, please get help. You are beautiful, you are worth it and you are powerful. You deserve all of the good things that have come and will come your way.
The telephone for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. The life you may save with the phone call is yours.
In the wake of the sudden loss of Linkin Park’s front man Chester Bennington to suicide earlier this week, the outward pouring of grief from fans, his band mates, fellow musicians, friends and his family speaks of the collective heartbreak of the loss of a man who will be missed.
Korn guitarist Ben “Head” Welch initially called Chester a coward before altering his statement.
Is suicide the act of a coward? Some may say yes. It is giving into our personal darkness instead of fighting and finding a way towards the light.
To label suicide as the act of a coward is wrong. It does not help those who are dealing with the pain of mental illness and it does not help the loved ones who lost someone to suicide.
Mental illness and suicide are a call for help. To label someone who has committed suicide as a coward only ostracizes those who are haunted by the specter of mental illness and the thoughts that lead to suicide.
I understand that grieving often brings us to say and do things we would not do otherwise. I also understand that we are all entitled to our opinions. But at the same time, the statement that suicide is cowardly only hurts the effort to prevent suicide and help those who feel that it is the only way out from their pain.
It hurts because I know the pain and the agony that can bring on suicide. I also know that this man was an amazing musician. I am not a huge fan of Linkin Park, but I understood their music. One of their most recent hits, Heavy, hit a raw nerve. The lyrics spoke to me in a way that few songs have.
Suicide claims too many of us. It smothers our light and takes away the possibilities that life can bring.
My heart goes out to his family, his friends and those who knew him best.
Several months ago, I wrote about a friend of a friend who killed herself. Earlier today, I heard that her sister also committed suicide.
I can only imagine what their family is going through.
Living with depression is like living with a perpetual dark cloud. No matter how joyous an occasion maybe, no matter how proud you maybe after reaching a goal that you have worked hard for, depression will always find a way to rain on your joy.
Depression is not a one size fits all disease. Everyone who suffers deals with it differently. Some can function reasonably and go about their daily lives. Others become hermits and become encompassed in their fear.
While I cannot speak for either woman, I know what it is like. I understand what it is to wake up in an emotional fog and think about the only way to finally end the pain.