How a well-intentioned action can add to a family’s grief.
UPDATE 12.20pm 8/9/2017: Since publishing this story we've learned that at least one person used in the "13 REASONS WHY" image is alive. They have declined to comment.
Tyler Gilbert died by suicide in January, aged 21-years-old. His mum, Karen Warren, says he had never been through the mental health system and his death was “out of the blue”.
So she was shocked when, a few months after his death, she logged onto Facebook to find him staring at her in a post captioned, “13 REASONS WHY we need an independent Mental Health Inquiry…(PLEASE SHARE)”.
The post had 1200 likes and has been doing the rounds on social media since May. The Wireless has chosen to remove the image from our story because since it was originally posted we have found that at least one person featured is alive and we don't want to retraumatise other families who may not have been contacted.
“It’s quite confronting just to open your Facebook page and ‘oh there it is’...a picture of your child,” she says.
“We were astounded they would even think to put something like that up on Facebook without asking the permission of parents or their guardians.”
Her daughter had tagged her in the image after Tyler’s ex-girlfriend tagged her.
“At that point, we were starting to heal from his death and … it kind of made it worse.
“It just brought it all back. It was like a kick in the guts, really, to think that someone else, who had no connection with your family, could use your child for their benefit.
“It just floors me that people could do that.”
Tyler’s family were interviewed for two stories about his death and how it affected them because they wanted to encourage people to seek help, but “for someone to just use that picture without our knowledge..it just really pissed me off actually”.
At the heart of all the noise around mental health is one thing - pain. In 2012, my friend died suddenly (the coroner was unable to find an official cause). He was one of the few people I was able to confide in as a teen as we both went through similar mental health struggles. The anger you feel and the need to hold someone to account is all-consuming.
It took me years to find some peace around his death. Months earlier he’d sent me a Facebook message along the lines of “if I don’t see you again”. I read it over and over.
But no one grieves the same. No suicide is the same. For every comment about the mental health system being to blame for our high rates, the fact is around 60 percent of people who die by suicide didn’t access specialist mental health services in the 12 months prior to their death (although this excludes private counselling as the data comes from DHBs and NGOs).
Over the past two weeks The Wireless has published stories on the unheard voices in the discussion around mental health. We hope they have given people an understanding into the complexities of mental health in New Zealand.
> READ MORE:
- How the discussion around suicide ignores crucial voices
- Five suicide myths busted
- Under pressure: mental health workers give their view of the crisis
- What the first person to lead the mental health commission says about fixing the system
- Does any political party have a good mental health policy?
Because for all the political promises and outraged columns, there is a world of pain for the people at the centre of the discussion. They are the people who have had a loved one die by suicide. They are the people who fight to stay alive in the face of suicidal thoughts every day. It’s an emotionally-fraught topic that simply deserves more care.
WHERE TO GET HELP WITH MENTAL HEALTH
Need to talk?: free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor, anytime.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757
Samaritans: 0800 726 666
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Healthline: 0800 611 116