Having nearly died by suicide six years ago, I can imagine what people would have said about me. They would’ve talked about my deep depressions, my unpredictable rage, how lost I was.

Maybe, like you, they would’ve said that I was better off dead. Maybe, like you, they would have callously remarked that some people with mental illness can’t be helped.

Here’s a letter for you, Amanda, from someone “beyond help.”

You were right to judge yourself for exploiting Leah’s story, because it’s exactly what you did. You took the life of a mentally ill person and diminished it, deciding to use her struggles for your own personal gain.

Mentally ill people do not exist as entertainment for you. They do not exist as a sensational story to tell. They are not a product for your consumption. We are not property, we are not objects, we are not paychecks for you.

But ethics were never a consideration for you, Amanda.

Let’s look at the facts: You celebrated the death of a mentally ill person. In doing so, you told people everywhere, “Some people with mental illness are better off dead.”

And you believed it, too, it was the crux of your entire essay. You, a self-declared expert on mental health recovery, have decided that some people with mental illness would be doing themselves and the world a favor if they died.

I want to ask you something. What did you think you were offering the world in writing this? What good do you think you were doing? I can’t see the good, but I can see the immense damage and pain that you’ve caused my community and myself.

I can think of a mentally ill teenager that would read your essay and say, “Maybe I can’t make it after all. Maybe I’m not supposed to.”

I can think of a society that already stigmatizes mental illness saying, “See? Sometimes they’re just crazy and there’s nothing to be done.”

I can see relatives of mentally ill people saying, “Just give up already. There’s nothing we can do.”

I can see a police officer pulling the trigger, deciding in a split second, “He’s crazy, that makes him too dangerous.”

Mentally ill people die because of attitudes like yours.

They die because they stop believing in their ability to recover in a society that tells them they can’t. They die because the stigma around their illness – stigma that was rampant in your essay – prevents them from seeking out help or accessing treatment. They die because their support systems abandon them. They die because law enforcement ends their lives.

We are the victims of violence and trauma because we encounter people every day who see us as less than human – people like you, who believe that being crazy is an invitation for tragic mistreatment and even death.

Six years ago, they might have said that I was beyond help. They sure liked to emphasize how severe my disorders were, how dysfunctional I was. Like your “friend” Leah, they might have said that death spared me from a life of institutions and burdening my loved ones.

(Maybe an asshole ex-friend would’ve made a buck at xoJane talking about my life with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. A kid can dream, right?)

But let me explain something to you, Amanda.

I wasn’t beyond help.

And it took six medications, and it took a psychiatric hospitalization, and it took a hell of a lot of support from the people around me (who, no doubt, felt the burden of my illness at times), but I am slowly but surely climbing out of the depths of severe psychosis and depression.

People counted me out for years, thinking that I could never reassemble my life after mental illness had torn it apart. But those people were wrong.

And you were wrong.

You don’t get to decide, Amanda, which of us are “beyond help.” You also don’t get to decide which of us deserve to live. You don’t get to decide who has a chance and who doesn’t.

Leah could’ve had a chance – and while you toss confetti on her grave, I can’t help but think about all the people that would’ve done the same to me prior to my recovery.

It’s easy to take a glance at someone’s suffering and count them out. It is difficult – and it’s called empathy, you should try it sometime – to see that person as a whole human being that is irrevocably worthy of care, validation, and support.

Leah was deserving of that and more, not death – whether or not you believe it, regardless of what your essay says.

There are so many people like Leah in this world, grappling with severe mental illness, who are told that they will not or should not survive. They’re counted out before they’re ever given a chance to live. They’re reduced to their illness and denied their humanity by people like you.

But every mentally ill person, including Leah, deserves the chance to live their life and pursue recovery on their own terms.

And every mentally ill person has the right – the goddamn right – to be treated with dignity.

I know that there’d be a lot of confetti on my grave if I had died six years ago. But I’m glad that I made it through. And I’ll tell you why, Amanda.

I’m glad because I am still here to fight for mentally ill people. People who are considered too much, too sick, too crazy. People who are written off before they’re ever given a chance. People like Leah, and people like me.

Because we don’t deserve to die. We deserve to live, and not only that, but live to tell our stories the way they should be told.

Not by people who want to exploit our struggles, but by us, celebrating the people we’ve become because of them.

Leah doesn’t get that chance. But there are people out there who still can.

And I hope they take your essay with a grain of fucking salt.

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136 comments

  1. i have written you before and you ignored me because i am old and not in your world, you think, but I am. So please do not discount me. This is my second comment on your blog, for what it’s worth. \Do you write to connect to others who might hear your story? Because I get the message that it is only those who already live in your world . Don’t forget there are those of us who find your stories compelling but also care.
    I tried twice to connect, You can make me go away, but I love your openness and ability to write. And don’t forget I have children and want them to make choices for themselves, yes i do.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m sorry, but I get hundreds – and I mean literally hundreds – of emails and messages every week. And having been recently hospitalized, I made the decision that until I’m able to get an assistant to help me, I can’t respond to emails unless the person is in dire crisis. Please remember that I’m human and that I have to take care of myself, my job, my family, and my sanity before all else. Not because I don’t want to respond or help people, but because I have a limited capacity to do so.

      I write for anyone who needs me. I’ve always written for any human being on this earth that needs to hear what I have to say. And if that’s you, I’m writing to you.

      Liked by 17 people

      1. I would be your assistant in a heartbeat if I were near you! You are one of my all-time favorite bloggers and your writing is so important. This one resonates with me and my experiences in a big way. xo

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Sam, I used to work Crisis. I remember very well those who wanted to just give up, to take the advice given Job, to “curse God and die.” There was a woman on an ER gurney, nearly inert with depression, saying, “They shoot horses, don’t they?” and begging me to let her go home to finish what she started. She went to the psych hospital instead on Title-36 (the Arizona equivalent of 5150 in CA). It is not fun hospitalizing someone against their will or without their understanding, but giving up on them is not an option. I never saw Amanda’s writing on her “friend”, and glad of it. Thank you, Sam, for the power of your writing on this. We know some people will not make it, but let us never let it be for lack of trying, for lack of caring, or for lack of someone keeping hope alive even against all odds.

    Liked by 17 people

  3. I’m so glad you’re still here, Sam. Your writing about mental illness and queer & trans identity has been an immeasurable help to me as I come to terms with both my nonbinary-ness and my GAD. You are a gift to this community, and I’m so glad you’ve kept fighting.

    Liked by 9 people

  4. P R E A C H !!!!!!! This response is perfect in any and every way.

    Not to mention that after this came out, they changed the author from “Amanda Lauren” to “Anonymous” like no one would notice, and that would absolve her of all judgment.

    Liked by 8 people

      1. She hasn’t said anything about it on her Twitter and I’m just like.. how can you ignore this? Oh wait, she seems awful so I’m not surprised she’s not taking responsibility.

        Liked by 4 people

  5. Please, if you are outraged by someone and their publication of this article, write to the advertisers and sponsors of XO letting them know what their brand is being associated with.

    I have posted screenshots showing the ads on the article to their respective brands to let them know what they are supporting. The only way to get xojane to listen is if we hit them where it hurts. If all they care about is click bait and ad revenue, maybe losing some sponsors will be a wake up call.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I chose to write to the author because there’s already an open petition to xoJane. What you’re describing already exists, so I took another angle – especially because Amanda and I run in a lot of the same writing circles.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I appreciate your open letter and thoughtful response. I don’t have a blog or much in the way of social media following, so I am trying to do the only thing I can think of to make a difference.

        Liked by 5 people

  6. Thanks so much for this. When I was 28 I was in a similar situation to Amanda’s “friend”. I am now 65 and have lived a bumpy, but terrific , life. It was hard work, but worth it. I ended up with everything I have always wanted- a loving partner of 32 years, two wonderful daughters, and a life filled with laughter and love. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be alive. Amanda is young and terribly naive. I hope she will learn how wrong she is about people with mental illness. It’s so hard to fight stigma when there are people writing things like that about our lives.
    You seem wise and wonderful. Best to you and much love.

    Liked by 9 people

  7. Just wanted to say thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    Depression and mental illness can definitely come off as toxic because in so many ways it is.

    The reality is though that the person struggling with these mental states and feelings is living that reality in a way almost unfathomable to someone outside that waking nightmare.

    It’s awesome to see more and more people talking about their experiences and bringing light to important issues.

    Good on you for an awesome write up 🙂

    Liked by 11 people

  8. Bravo. Thank you for this.

    I lost a relative to suicide two years ago. No, it was not a blessing. It was a huge huge loss. I miss her every day. It rips a hole in the fabric of life and nothing is ever the same again.

    I fear what you wrote, that a struggling person will read that trash and think that they would be doing loved ones a favor by dying. NO!!!

    XOJane apologized and pulled the article, but I think it is too little too late.

    Thank you again because what you wrote is a great counterpoint and hopefully will serve as an antidote to the callous disregard shown by XOJane as a whole.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Thank you. For saying what so many of us want to say, and what I try to say when writing. You are truly a blessing to the mental health community. For what it’s worth-I’m so glad you didn’t give up. The world would be a darker place without you in it. -Michelle.

    Liked by 6 people

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  11. some people consider suicide is not an option but one cannot really imagine what that person is going through. how ever if there is true love then suicide by far is not an option.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you. No matter how old we are, or how far along in recovery from depression, our brain sneaks in “You’re better off dead,” whenever it can. The suggestion always presents itself. We certainly don’t need people cheering it on.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you. Like you, I almost died 6 years ago by my own hand. I am so lucky to be here regardless and this XO Jane articles existence makes me sick.
    Reminds me of my bully who told me to “hang in there” with a noose at my weakest moment. I’m so disgusted.
    Thank you for calling it out.
    It almost hurts to see someone even having to address this.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Reblogged this on sagereads and commented:
    This is very well put. No one in this world should ever say “just give up already”. It is not your decision on what someone should do. By publicly someone so wrong, you are telling everyone out there that struggling that its ok go kill yourself. Well I am going to say. DONT GIVE UP! There is a way to overcome depression and anxiety. For those that are reading this and are debating if ending your life is the way. i am telling you no, because if you feel those around you dont care ill say this. Even though I may not know you… I will care if you are gone. You are here for a purpose and I have every bit of faith you will find it.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you for this post. I struggle everyday with anxiety. There are days I just feel like nothing will make me happy. I just feel like crawling in a hole. I also have several friends that are going through PTSD or severe depression and I would just become unglued if someone had ever told them to give up. I believe everyone deserves to be here. Everyone has a purpose. It just takes some longer to find it than others.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Sam:
    I am so glad that you seized the opportunity to pursue a path of healing. Someday I hope that the response to the prejudice voiced by Amanda (that some people are beyond recovery) will be a simple “Hah! Look here: Living proof!”
    Have you read “A General Theory of Love”? It’s a book written by three psychotherapists who at one point describe the dangers of treating victims of trauma. There are people that aren’t strong enough to share the struggle, and they will make shallow judgments.
    It is for the strong among us to blaze a trail through human nature that others can follow. While it might not seem like a choice you’ve made, please accept that I really mean this:
    “Thank you for the work that you do.”
    Brian

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Many people who suffer from a mental illness feel they are burdens to their family and friends . This disgusting essay could just be the shove they need to take their own lives simply because it’s a confirmation of what they have believed all along. The person who wrote this should be beyond ashamed of themselves and their inhumanity.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I salute your raw and straightforward criticism and respect the stand that you take.As this big world gains momentum and leaves its morality,ethics and most importantly their humanity behind , your essay does well in reminding us to pick them up and go ahead in life.I am so glad to have been introduced to this site.I can fairly imagine what you had been through six years ago and wish that you crusade on ahead with this burning spirit.
    I don’t know you but I am proud of you.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I once thought I was beyond help. I really did. Back in 2013-2014 I was ready to just hang it up and give up. But my therapist and psychiatrist refused to give up. My friends, the ones I still let into my life at the time, refused to give up. My brother and sister refused to give up. I felt like I was a burden to all of them on a daily basis and ending my life was the better choice so they didn’t have to deal with it anymore.

    Then I heard this song by Jake Miller called A Million Lives. The third verse is about a young girl who is a fan of his whose older brother passed away the year before and I heard this line “Your music gives me a feelin that I just can’t describe
    It’s like I got my brother back, and hes still alive”

    For some reason that really hit me like “What am I going to do to the people (especially my brother, who was/is my lifeline) in my life if I go through with this?” and I started to become determined to get better. It took over 3 years of medication trials with my psych to find the right combination. I take 12 pills in the morning and 6 at night. My roommate and I call it “pharmacy time” when I refill my pill dispenser ever weekend lol. I will be on medication for the rest of my life. In July I’m starting DBT which is designed for people with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder just like me. The treatment never stops. And the more intense the treatment, the only hope is the stronger I get.

    So yeah, nobody is beyond help. You just have to find the right support systems and look within yourself. If I didn’t get sober I would be dead now. And if I didn’t push through the past 4 years emotionally and mentally, I’d be dead. But I’m alive and kicking and I’m not going anywhere.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Reblogged this on Just a rash decision and commented:
    Thought-provoking.
    “It’s easy to take a glance at someone’s suffering and count them out. It is difficult – and it’s called empathy, you should try it sometime – to see that person as a whole human being that is irrevocably worthy of care, validation, and support.”

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Thank you. 2 years ago I came very close to suicide. I never thought I would recover, but I did, and it’s because of people like you that have faith in things getting better. Now I try to help others with their depression and suicidal thoughts because I know how to fight it. It amazes me that anyone can be so thoughtless as to write an article like Amanda did, especially considering (as you said) that she may be responsible for people driven to killing themselves by it. Thanks for fighting back.

    Liked by 3 people

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