Monday, 3 February 2014

There are reports of yet another

"Hollywood actor" dying of a heroin overdose and others saying what a "tragic waste" of life it is. And it is. It would have been a tragic waste of life even if Philip Hoffman had been a down and out on the streets.
I don't doubt that more than one person died of a heroin overdose at the same time as Mr Hoffman. Will any others make headlines around the world? Probably not. They will not, in the eyes of the media, be as "important".
But they are important. They will be someone's son or daughter. They may be a brother or sister, cousin, aunt, uncle or grandchild. They may have friends and acquaintances. People will miss them.
I was reading an academic article last week. In it the writer referred to a paper by another academic, someone I knew and thought I knew well. I knew she had problems but her suicide still shocked me. I suspect other people who worked with her were even more shocked. They simply hadn't noticed. All I knew was what she had told me one Saturday morning when we both happened to be catching up on some paper work after a week out in schools. She made two mugs of tea and brought one in to me. I sensed she needed to talk and made the time for her. Of course it was not enough. She needed professional help - and nobody listened when I said I thought she was not coping very well.
Seeing her name on the paper was a jolt, as it always is. I do sometimes wonder what she would be like now. She was older and would be well past retirement age now but academics, particularly those who have not developed other interests, don't always retire. I suspect she would not have retired. I wonder where her research would have taken her?  Yes, it was a waste.
There was another much younger man I knew who had drug and alcohol abuse problems. His suicide did not come as such a shock but it was still a waste. He was, when sober and not high, a quite extraordinarily witty man. He could make other people laugh. Again, his suicide shocked many people. They had no idea. Few of them had any idea how serious his problems were - even those who were trying to help him. His mother would weep on my shoulder because "nobody listens".
Philip Hoffmann was surrounded by people who should have been aware. They should have listened but Hollywood is a very artificial place. It is a place where many people have difficulty in telling the difference between the real and the imaginary. I have no desire to go there.
When I went out to get the papers this morning one of the regular dog walkers was going past and he mentioned Hoffmann's death to me. Then he said, "It's a wonder more actors don't kill themselves. They're always pretending to be people who do things like that."
Fortunately he moved on before he pursued the point.
Thankfully I don't have to pretend to be someone I am writing about. I just need to get inside their heads - and that can be much harder.


jeanfromcornwall said...

It is sad, but I agree that it is a wonder that more actors don't take their own lives. Out here in the real world, we are not working to a script, and there is nobody to call out 'cut' when it all gets too much to handle. We just have to muddle through somehow, and it is amazing to me how few people reach the ends of their endurance, and take that route out.

catdownunder said...

Jean, it also scares me how little we notice other people's need for some assistance when they can't endure it any more.