Mindy McCready died Sunday. It appears the 37-year-old country singer killed herself.
Mindy was a lovely woman with a complex mental health history. Her boyfriend and father of one of her young sons killed himself just a month ago. There were custody issues involving another one of her children. These were numerous liabilities that may have contributed to her death.
But let me be clear. Mindy’s tragic situation is about mental illness. Chronic mental illness.
We have a wrongly-perpetuated notion that people who are mentally ill can somehow “conquer their demons”. There is no such thing. Mental illness is not a weakness or moral failing. It is a sickness for which people need ongoing treatment.
About a week ago, Mindy was at a facility getting care for herself. But she left prematurely. I believe that the stigma surrounding mental illness caused her to resist treatment. We need to think about this: Public figures are scrutinized, even jeered, for admitting a problem such as mental illness and getting help. We should be cheering for them instead.
If Mindy had cancer and went to a doctor would we judge and blame her? If she says she got treatment for her cancer and it recurred, requiring repeat hospitalization, would we say the patient was weak, or that the treatment didn’t work? Or would we applaud the patient for courage and strength in the face of a difficult illness?
People with chronic mental health issues are in danger if they are not engaged in ongoing care. The prognosis for those who aren’t, is not good. Mental illnesses can be fatal, particularly for those with what we call dual diagnoses, such as addiction and depression.
I am disgusted and angry. How many conversations must we continue to have about mental illness and its devastating effects, before people get the message? If you know someone who exhibits signs of mental illness, don’t take “no” for an answer. Get that person into care.
If Mindy McCready had stayed in treatment, she’d still be with us.