Trigger Warning: The following article discusses suicide and self-injury.
We’ve all heard by now: Paris Jackson was hospitalized last week for an apparent suicide attempt.
I say ‘apparent’ because we just don’t know the specifics of what happened. Perhaps we will never quite know the details surrounding Paris’ medical emergency.
Not that the media hasn’t tried to put the pieces together:
- Paris was pictured with what has been called ‘worrying scars’, suggested to be the result of self-injury.
- Paris is said to have been depressed, unhappy, and alone.
- Paris is said to be a ‘sensitive girl’.
- Paris is said to have taken a large number of pain relievers.
- Paris is said to have left a suicide note, an ‘obvious’ cry for help.
- Paris is said to have called a suicide helpline.
- Paris is said to be staying in hospital on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.
There you have it: the play-by-play of Paris’ ‘apparent’ mental breakdown.
Except there is a problem with this story. There is an obvious detail that the media forgot to include. A fact of the story that we already know to be true:
- Paris is a 15 year old girl.
Erase the close resemblance to her late father. Forget everything you’ve ever heard about Paris over the past 4 years. What’s left?
She’s a teenage girl who’s struggling, and a teenage girl who needs support.
Let’s say, for a second, that all of the ‘apparent’ events of yesterday are in fact true. Let’s assume, for a minute, that Paris was thinking about suicide, that she did hurt herself, and that she is in hospital getting psychiatric attention.
If all of this is in fact true than Paris did exactly what she was supposed to do. When she felt like she was at risk of hurting herself, Paris called a suicide hotline. She reached out for support.
That’s what hotlines, regardless of what type they are, were made for. They are available for us when we are at our most vulnerable, when we are in crisis, and when we need someone to talk to. And if she did in fact call the helpline, and the crisis interventionist did in fact call the police out of worry for her, than it may have saved Paris’ life.
All because Paris did the right thing.
And now? The media is punishing Paris because she reached out for help and because she was taking care of herself. She is the butt of jokes, the source of gossip, the new ‘wild girl’ with the likes of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Amanda Bynes -all female celebrities who have endured personal attacks because they were forced to battle a mental health concern in the public eye. All relatively young women who were not granted privacy in their time of need. I have to wonder – would the media be focusing so much on their downfall if they were men or is this yet another attempt to further perpetuate the ‘irrationality’ of women?
More than likely Paris, like any of us, didn’t call the helpline with the forethought that others, anyone besides those helping her, would find out. And why should she? The helpline is meant to be confidential. Regardless of whom your father is.
Someone obviously breached her privacy. Multiple people, who are employed to help her, broke her trust for the sake of a news story. In their eyes, she didn’t have the right to keep this story to herself.
What is the likelihood that Paris will ever call a helpline again, knowing that it was non-confidential? In reality, how many other young teenage girls, after hearing Paris’ story, will be deterred from calling under similar pretenses? Or seeking help in general, knowing they will be characterized just as these other young women have been.
And that’s the danger of exploiting a celebrity with a mental health concern. You send a message to the rest of society that mental health doesn’t really matter. That mental health is something undeserving of respect. That those who struggle with mental health are weak, damaged, crazy. It all makes it seem as though such individuals are not worthy of our support.
It is this very mentality that has caused the stigmatization of mental health that is so prevalent in our society. It is this line of thinking that keeps far too many in pain and isolation.
This time, the media took it too far. What happened to Paris isn’t funny, and it’s not newsworthy. It’s her life. And it’s the life of millions of others who are struggling with mental health and in remain in harm’s way.