In an emotional 11-minute-long Facebook confessional, posted late last week, Grammy award-winning songstress, Sinéad O’Connor, broke into tears about having suicidal thoughts, her feelings of isolation, and her continued battle with three mental illnesses.
The vulnerable 50-year-old musician’s bold actions would soon draw attention to a much bigger issue, one that affects roughly 43.8 million people in a given year, including the author of this very column. According to statistics provided by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately one out of every five Americans experience mental illness each year.
Unlike O’Connor, I was first diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when I was in the fifth grade. It took several years of going to different doctors, psychologists and even exposure therapy before I was finally able to tackle my own mental illness. Not unlike bipolar disorder, OCD is an anxiety-based mental illness that can re-emerge at different moments in a person’s life, if triggered. Growing up with OCD was rather debilitating and sometimes caused me to act odd in certain social situations. As a child, it is difficult to be told that you have a mental illness that literally causes a person to “think too much.”
It took a lot of courage for Sinéad to speak out publically about her mental illness, despite the stigma that others might view her differently. It is admirable, to say the least. But, let’s be honest, as an outspoken advocate for free speech, we admired her well before all this.
The musician’s heartfelt video is truly gripping. In it, she breaks down about how she has felt isolated since losing custody of her 13-year-old son, and how she feels that she can trust no one but her psychiatrist. O’Connor has had four children, each from a different relationship, and most recently became a grandmother in 2015.
According to News.com.au, after losing custody of her youngest child, O’Connor made threats to Ireland’s Child and Family Agency, Tulsa, telling them that they would “have a dead celebrity on their hands” if they didn’t change their decision.
O’Connor, who was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007, sparked a police investigation earlier this year after she disappeared from a Chicago suburb while bike riding with friends. Fearing for her safety, her friends formed a search party. Thankfully, she was found safe in the end.
According to The Independent, after watching her video, her good friend and fellow musician, Annie Lennox, felt concerned and went on to Facebook to try to suggest friends and family try to help the vulnerable musician.
“I just watched this truly distressing call for help by Sinéad O’Connor, from a motel room in New Jersey, where she says there’s no one there to help her, with the exception of a psychiatrist and a doctor,” Lennox said. “Are there no close friends or family who could be with her to give her some loving support? It’s terrible to see her in such a vulnerable state.”
The following Monday, a note was posted on her Facebook which states, “Hi everybody, I am posting at Sinead’s request, to let everyone who loves her know she is safe, and she is not suicidal. She is surrounded by love and receiving the best care. She asked for this to be posted, knowing you are concerned for her. I won’t respond to any questions, so please understand. I hope this comforts those of you [who] were concerned.”
In her tearful video confession, O’Connor also said that she hopes her message will serve to help others, and since it went viral, has shown the world that even celebrities suffer from mental illness. Since then we have even started to see others inspired to step forward about their struggle with mental illness.
“I hope that this video is somehow helpful,” she said. “I know that I’m just one of millions and millions of people in the world that suffer like I do that don’t necessarily have the resources that I have.”
In response, former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury recently sent a message of support for O’Connor, confessing that he has battled depression his entire career and that he too has had suicidal thoughts.
“I recently watched one of your heartbreaking videos where you talked about mental health problems, being alone and being a role model,” Fury said in an Instagram video. “I’ve recently been going through a lot of it myself… there’s a lot of people out there going through the same. Millions of people around the world suffer with this.”
Not to diminish the message here, which is that mental illness is a big issue that impacts a great many of us, but, as Fury says, “Sinéad, you are not alone.” There are a great many talented artists who have struggled and overcome mental illnesses, such as Brian Wilson, Kurt Cobain, Syd Barrett, Ray Davies, and Ian Curtis, just to name a few.
Concern for O’Connor’s well-being grew even greater presence online when it was reported she had checked in to a hospital in New Jersey. “Thank you for your love,” she said in another Facebook post. “I am well. In a wonderful, loving hospital. Passed the bastard kidney stone. Held it in my hand. Doctor kept me because they were worried about me being alone.”
News that she was alright after her recent meltdown was well received, however, some are concerned that the musician may be airing too much of her dirty laundry out on Facebook. Most recently, she went off about her former manager, Bruce Garfield, accusing him of committing identity theft, forgery, and allegedly “facilitating her suicide four times as well as failing to act to save her life.”
In response to the allegations, Garfield told Billboard, that he finds her assertion, that she fired him, “objectionable.” “I am no longer managing Sinéad,” he said. “I think her Facebook post speaks for itself.”
In her Facebook post, O’Connor cites instructions that Garfield is not to contact her new agent, uses several explicit words, and at times, writes in all-caps for added emphasis.
We wish only the best for Sinéad, as we understand mental illnesses are a lot like an addiction in how difficult it can be to overcome. Some days it can feel like a real uphill battle. Nevertheless, it is a process we must endure. I won’t happen over night. We must remember to hold on and work to improve ourselves one day at a time.
WATCH: SINEAD O’CONNOR FACEBOOK VIDEO