Opinion: The problem with how many talk about the death of tWitch

Editor’s note: Mel Robbins is the host of The Mel Robbins Podcast, a New York Times bestselling author and CNN contributing commentator. follow her @melrobbins. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. see more opinions on CNN. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call or text 988, the Crisis and suicide lifeline.


Like millions of people around the world, I am processing the heartbreaking news that Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss died by suicide this week.

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Having lost too many people I love to mental health issues like depression, addiction, trauma, and hopelessness, all of whom died by suicide, I feel so emotional right now. You could be too.

tWitch was loved for being Ellen DeGeneres’ co-executive producer, dance partner, and DJ on her talk show. He was a part of people’s lives five days a week, for years. He had one of those megawatt smiles that lit up every room he walked into.

Seeing a light as bright as twitch’s go out so suddenly at the age of 40, with three beautiful children, a great life, so much talent and fans from all over the world woke up so much sadness inside of me, and it could be awakening a lot inside of me. you too.

And it sure is raising many thoughts on the Internet.

How do you make sense of the news that someone so positive and energetic died by suicide? I keep seeing comments online as people around the world process the “heartbreaking” and “sad” death, then write things like:

“But… I had so many resources.”

“How could he do this to his family?”

“But it’s almost the holidays.”

“What a selfish thing to do.”

And my reaction to that: Stop.

When someone dies of brain cancer, you don’t say, “That’s so selfish.”

When someone’s liver fails, you don’t say: “But they had so many resources…”

I think of death by suicide in the same way that I think of death from brain cancer. If you have a friend or loved one, like most of us, who died from a struggle with addiction, depression, trauma, or toxic stress, that mental health challenge fundamentally changed mind, the way they think and the way they process the world. Similar to how brain cancer damages the brain, mental illness affects the mind, and for some, mental health problems can even alter the physical structure of the brain

With cancer, you see the people you love deteriorate on the outside. When someone struggles with mental health issues, you often don’t see it. Unfortunately, people… men in particular – they feel a lot of shame when they are struggling mentally.

There are plenty of people fighting demons in their heads who smile, share funny videos on social media, play on sports teams, and succeed at work, all while struggling to fight their inner demons. Just because you can’t see it inside someone doesn’t mean the pain they’re experiencing isn’t real or overwhelming.

This is why the death of tWitch doesn’t make sense to so many people.

In public, their fight was invisible. In the privacy of his mind, it may have been hell. That is why the language we choose when we talk about suicide is so important.

It really annoys me when I see people writing arrogant things like, “Well, I had problems. I was in a dark place and asked for help. Why didn’t he? Or, “How could he do this to his wife and children?”

To that I say: you didn’t need to know the man to see that he loved his wife and children very much. He may have suffered pain that you or I cannot relate to or understand.

There is a big difference between wanting to end your pain and wanting to end your life. But some of those who struggle with mental illness may not be able to tell the difference. That is why suicide is not selfish. It’s what happens when someone loses the battle against mental illness.

That is why I am so convinced that we change the way we think and talk about suicide. Saying this is selfish or victim’s fault is simply ignorant and tremendously hurtful to loving family members of someone who lost their battle.

So stop assuming you know what someone else’s life is like, or what it’s like to live in their head.

The fact is that you have no idea what someone else’s life is like. Me neither. You have no idea what pain or trauma a big smile can hide.

When someone who seems to have it all dies by suicide, it’s easy to focus on the beautiful life, the bank account, the wonderful spouse, the wonderful children, or the great house.

But people don’t live in their houses. They live in their heads.

So today I want to emphasize something that was said at the end of every episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show:

Be nice.

Today, just be kind. Choose kind words and kind actions. You never know what another person is going through.

He begins to assume that everyone is silently fighting against something. Because everyone is. Therefore, it is up to all of us to be kind to one another.

And, if you find that tWitch’s death makes you think about the people you’ve lost, what’s happening to me is completely normal.

Don’t fight grief. It’s all the love you couldn’t express while you were here. Allow yourself to feel it. Remember the person and the things you miss and love about them. And remember to be nice to yourself too. You deserve it.

Finally, if you are in pain right now, remember this: There is a difference between wanting to end the pain you are in and wanting to end your life. You can end the pain with support and by taking small steps forward every day. It can and will improve. Pick up the phone. Trained volunteers are ready to help you. Make that call for help if you need it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call or text 988, the Crisis and suicide lifeline.

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