Here's my response to the uprise of mental illness dialoguing in response to Robin William's recent death and a more detailed explanation of my status from yesterday ["How must we call for critical change in the industry when an actor like Heath Ledger is found dead on his floor, an actor like Phillip Seymour Hoffman overdoses, an actor like Robin Williams takes his own life, ... ?]:
I’m feeling deep empathy... I'm feeling that I can absolutely relate to these actors and I have a strong feeling I am not alone. I understand why “illness” has been chosen to describe what artists/people like Robin Williams are dealing with and I think that I agree with this usage, that is if by illness we mean something that is contagious and practically inescapable.
Recently I read an academic article called “We Are All Very Anxious” (here's a link if you’re interested: http://www.weareplanc.org/we-are-all-very-anxious). I feel very moved by this work, which states that anxiety is a public secret... something we all feel but continue to define as a lonely experience that’s essentially “our own fault.” The article asserts that this is the newest mode of capitalism, a pulsating structure which, in 2014, breeds competition at a hyper techno speed and that at one time or another we all struggle to keep up with.
Although this is not just affecting artists, artists, especially actors in the public eye, are often the first to be working through or seen working through shared sickness and, for Williams, Ledger and Hoffman included, can result in something heartbreaking. This is why instead of generalizing my call to arms, I confront a microcosmic force that is probably the most responsible for reflecting and representing society: “the industry.”
I understand that the industry isn’t necessarily at fault for its own (as described by Stephen Sondheim) “blob”-like consumption, but I think it’s bullshit to apologize and beat ourselves into submission for a money-hungry corporation which, more often than not, cares more about box office revenue than the quality of a production and its players/performers. Yes, I’m sure I’m oversimplifying in some way... I also don't mean to invalidate the reality of mental illness, a reality that reporters mention Williams experienced. I’m also sure that I’m not interested in being a ne’er do well with my nose in the air.
I’m simply asking what needs to change? How can we say “enough is enough” in order to slow down and reevaluate our health and wellness as a public? I don’t know the answers, but I know artists increase awareness and awareness is the seed of change. So why shouldn’t “the industry” (which I wish I didn’t even have to call an industry), which prides itself on employing artists, step up to the plate? Asking this question on facebook is at least one way I can personally be responsible for change as a collaborator and consumer of this institution. Simply by asking, I hope to begin a conversation.