How many people all smiles on social media, walking the red carpet at an awards show, or sitting across the table from you are one disappointment, one bad break, one devastating breakup from break down, even suicide?
Kristoff St. John, whom I've admired for almost 3 decades as Neil Winters on the Emmy Winning soap opera The Young and The Restless, is dead. While the cause has not been confirmed as of yet, the news has brought with it a firestorm of speculation.
Like many, I took to Google, first to make sure it wasn't a hoax and next to find out the how and why of it. The details differed from news outlet to news outlet and from social media post to social media post, but one thing was clear. His death brought back to the forefront depression and mental health.
He was very forthcoming about his own overwhelming grief and guilt after his son's suicide in 2014. It was also reported that he spent 72 hours on suicide watch later himself. That and his interview with Entertainment Tonight, where he and his ex wife's grief was overwhelming at times, makes me wonder how many people are functionally broken.
I remember my own history of mental instability. It was called "nerves" back when I was young. I don't remember feeling suicidal. I do remember however having chronic sadness and feeling out of sorts. I bit my fingernails until they bled. I had bad dreams with an theme of an evil entity trying to harm me. It didn't matter how many A's I made in school or how devoted I was to my faith, nothing could remedy how disconnected I felt. What I've learned is being able to function is not an indication that you're getting better. In fact, it's the biggest lie we've been told.
And so we are a society of the functionally broken. A society that operates on the assumption that time heals all wounds, hard work pays off and big boys don't cry. A society that promotes appearing to be okay over actually being okay.
No one will ever know what was going on in Kristoff's mind. Sadly, even if we put 2 and 2 together, it's too late to change what has happened. What we can do, however, is get real about our own mental health.
I did a Facebook Live not too long ago that asked the question, "How close are you to a break down?" On it, I talk about what keeps us in denial about our mental health and what we have to do to change that. Here's a short excerpt:
We must tell ourselves the unvarnished truth. We can't use church as an escape. We can't use relationships as an escape. We can't use helping others as an escape. We can't use running after our dreams as an escape. Our motives must be called into question, especially if what we are doing is keeping us from paying attention to our broken hearts. We must give our mental health just as much, if not more, attention as we give our efforts to avoid it. No longer can we tell ourselves that it can wait until this is finished or that is accomplished. No longer can we keep up appearances when inside we are dying inside.