It’s no secret that controversial singer and activist Sinead O’Connor has had her share of mental health troubles. She has been very public about her struggles with depression in the past, and has spoken openly about the importance of not stigmatizing people (young women in particular) who suffer from mental health issues.
Unfortunately, O’Connor has apparently experienced a setback of her own this past Sunday. While the singer has long been known to post long, ranting open letters on the internet in either support or criticism of causes she has an opinion about, on Sunday her social media activity took on a different timbre. The singer had piqued some concern earlier in the week when she posted candidly about child custody issues she has been having (O’Connor has four children by four different men), and that she had been suffering from feelings of loneliness after undergoing a total hysterectomy in August. This time however, the singer posted another (very long) diatribe to Facebook, citing that the past week had “broken” her, and that there was “only so much one woman could be expected to bear”. O’Connor went on to name names of specific family members who she claims have treated her with “appalling cruelty”.
But what really got friends, family, and fans to sit up and take notice was the end of the letter, in which O’Connor clearly stated that she intended to end her life. She wrote “I have taken an overdose. It is the only way to get respect”, and went on to disclose that she was staying at a hotel somewhere in Ireland under an assumed name.
The posting caused an almost immediate outpouring of international concern; within an hour of her posting, thousands of posts of support in response to her message had appeared on her site, including many people who reached-out to O’Connor in an attempt to not only show her support but to provide her with immediate help. Ultimately, it was the police who saved the day. O’Connor was discovered by the Gardai in a Dublin hotel room, very much alive and unharmed. The singer is currently undergoing medical treatment.
Although it has been widely reported that O’Connor suffers from bipolar disorder (otherwise referred to as manic depression), in 2014 the singer was actually found to have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and not bipolar disorder. The singer had been taking medications for bipolar disorder for approximately eight years based on her original misdiagnosis, something she has spoken quite openly about. In an interview with UK presenter Ruby Wax, she discussed the importance of getting properly diagnosed for a mental health disorder, and cited that the “very heavy anti-psychotic medications” she was taking for her misdiagnosed condition came with their own set of problems, never really felt like they were helping her depression, and ultimately are best avoided in those who are not actually suffering from a condition in which they are indicated. Interestingly, despite her revelation of her misdiagnosis, O’Connor continues to be referred to as bipolar in many, if not most media accounts of her life and struggles with mental illness.
It was the diagnosis of PTSD that caused O’Connor really find her voice as an advocate for de-stigmatizing mental health issues. She recalls the beginning of her mental health journey as a grim realization that when you have a mental health diagnosis, people “take it as a license to dismiss everything you think, do, say, or feel.” She remembers her acute disappointment in feeling that she was constantly being written-off as “crazy”, instead of being viewed as just another human being with a condition that they are successfully managing and living with.
Sadly, it looks like this latest unfortunate episode just underscores the importance of O’Connor’s advocacy, as well as brings to light the very point she has often made about the way those with mental health issues are treated. In her posting, the singer talks a great deal about feeling “invisible” and that she feels a lack of respect. While there is always more to a story than one reads on social media, it is a real-time lesson on how people with mental illnesses often feel; that they are not taken seriously, or made to feel unfit or unworthy.
Due to the real-time nature of the internet and some due diligence on the part of her fans, friends, and likely her family, this particular chapter in O’Connor’s struggle with mental illness has a happy ending. But for a lot of other people, the ending to the story is all to often an altogether different one. For what it’s worth, we are pleased to know that the talented singer is safe and sound, and are hoping that she is getting the help she needs so that not only can she continue to entertain us with her talent, but also continue her much-needed advocacy for those who suffer from mental illness.