OPINION: The tragic loss of Scott Hutchison tells us we aren't coping

OPINION: The tragic loss of Scott Hutchison tells us we aren’t coping

When the news came last Wednesday morning that Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison had been reported missing, my heart sank.  And when the news came that his body had been identified, it felt like a kick to the stomach. I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that the whole of Scotland had been hoping, wishing, and praying for a different, better outcome; Scotland really has lost one of its modern heroes.

Now, I’d never claim to be their biggest fan, but I do thoroughly enjoy their music.  I hadn’t realised until now how it had seen me through some tough times in my life over the past 10 years. The deeply poetic lyrics were also charming, funny, irreverent, and utterly devastating all at once; and so painfully real.  It was like they’d seen into my own mind and plucked the very thoughts from it.

So why did the news of Scott’s death hit me so hard?  It’s not as if I really had a right to be so moved and so upset.  I didn’t even know him. Sure, we’d shared the same space a handful of times, and we’d briefly crossed paths in a field last year, but it wasn’t a personal connection. But maybe it’s because it could have been me, even as recent as a few weeks ago.  This could have been my story.  It could have been the stories of people I do know, and the stories of so many others I will never know.  Mental health affects everybody.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (running from 14th – 20th May).  One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.  And while the number of people experiencing problems hasn’t changed much, the statistics for self-harming and suicidal thoughts has increased.  And it’s no secret that suicide is the most common cause of death among men between the ages of 20 – 49 years of age.  The short version?  We aren’t coping.

Depression is a bloody liar.  It tells you that you’re not good enough; that you’re not clever enough; that you’re not pretty or handsome enough; that everyone would be better off if you disappeared; that you’ll never get better, and so on and so forth.

So what can we do?  There’s always the GP, right?  Medication is still the most common treatment, but that’s not the only answer.  There are charities and organisations such as Samaritans, Mind, and CALM – but they largely rely on sufferers getting in touch.  And I’m positive some of them do.  While I’ll concede the need for these organisations is absolutely necessary, I have a problem. Funding cuts to NHS services will obviously equal a reduction in people being able to get the help they need – often resulting in the wrong sort of care, or no treatment whatsoever.  I’d certainly recommend using these kinds of organisations, but what about those people who can’t reach out?  Who do they turn to?  “Help will always be given to those who ask for it,” so says Albus Dumbledore. 

But herein lies my issue with how we treat those who need help.  The onus seems to be on people who are suffering reaching out and asking for help.  Why is that?  Why do we place the responsibility on them?  If you’ve ever experienced depression, or anxiety, or any other mental health problem, you’ll also likely have heard the words “Snap out of it,” or “Pull yourself together, other people have it worse than you,” or even “What have you got to be depressed about?” and other variations of them.  And that can only ever do more harm than good because it gives that notorious liar called Depression more ammunition to use against you.

So here’s what I propose: instead of placing the responsibility on sufferers, reach out to people yourselves.  Send them a text asking them how they are; invite them out for a coffee or an afternoon at the beach; leave little notes of love and encouragement in their pockets/lunchboxes/handbags; pick up the phone and talk about anything and everything; tell them your own stories – it might just give them the drive and courage they need to share theirs.  I’m sure you can think of something that could make someone’s day.  And not just those people who you know or suspect are struggling with mental ill-health; everyone would benefit from a kinder, gentler world that offers love and support instead of judgement and shame.  Carry on Scott’s legacy and try to make the world a better place.  “While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth.”

  1. Great article Toni. The biggest issue – and the hardest one to deal with – is the cause of the apparent epidemic of depression, and that’s the shitty world we’ve made for ourselves, where our self-worth is determined by how economically productive we are, what car we drive, what phone we use, how many likes we get on Instagram & all that other shite. In the last 40 years the way human beings in developed societies live their lives has changed beyond all recognition, the old family/social/community ties barely exist, social media gives an illusion of community but doesn’t provide the real connections human beings need…and damn right we’re not coping because we’re not supposed to be living this way. And you can’t solve this problem without making some very radical changes to our political & economic system, changes that would be resisted by the powers that be every step of the way, as they see this human fallout as a price worth paying.

    Also factor in the fact that big pharma is making a killing out of depression. When I used to go to my doctor in London in the late 90s/early 00s for my regular dose of Cipramil, I noticed that all the corporare freebies in his office – mousemats, mugs, pens etc – had anti-depressant brand logos on them. Do the maths – why push a drug that people are only going to take for a few days when they’re sick, when you can sell one that comes with a 3-6-12 month prescription? My mum went to see her doctor in 2001 after my dad died as she wasn’t coping very well, and he put her on anti-depressants for 6 months – she wasn’t depressed, she was just grieving. I’m sure there are thousands of other such cases. Pills don’t solve the problem, they get you out of bed & keep you functioning but the causes are still there. But hey, people are getting rich off it so got to keep pushing them.

    I was lucky to get counselling on the NHS which I have to say changed my life & led me to emigrate, since when I’ve had very few problems, & when the black dog raises its ugly head as it does from time to time I know it well enough to deal with it – chat to a sympathetic ear, go & do some exercise, listen to a bit of Motown or whatever – but I still hear that voice every single day telling me that I’m going to fuck up whatever I do, & it’s not always easy to shut it up…

  2. Apart from the “emigrate” (I couldn’t, I’ve a drugs conviction), your advice to seek a sympathetic ear, listen to (hopeful and/or inspirational) music and exercise is all good, it certainly helps me through periodic bouts of depression when I feel worthless and an encumbrance to all and everything. The problem is that some people don’t have that ear or don’t think they have the right to be dragging others into their problem(s). This is the time that those of us who understand how difficult it can be to reach out are uniquely placed to make what could be a life saving action. If you know or know of someone prone to depressive thoughts give them a call or send a text(I know I often find it hard to talk when I’m down), try to recall someone who you haven’t heard from for a while and don’t give up if there’s no reply first time, recently it took me over a week to get back to a friend asking how I was, I was turning over in my mind whether I should tell him how I really felt or not, I let him know things weren’t going well for me and he dropped everything to come and see me and though I’m still struggling that one text has helped more than any drugs could hope to accomplish. So don’t wait for friends to let you know they are in a bad place take a proactive role and ask how they are, bearing in mind that depressed people don’t always want to burden others, perhaps arrange to go out or visit, if you know them well enough the response might give you a clue to their state of mind. Writing what I intended to be a brief reply has made me think of a friend I haven’t heard from for a while so I’m going to take my own advice and give him a call and if there’s no answer I’ll send text messages until I find out how life’s treating him because sometimes, despite our best efforts, you can still get dealt a shitty hand. Loving your fellow human beings is a great way to learning to love yourself. So if you know how it feels to be depressed or are right now feeling it yourself, give a couple of minutes to thinking about other people you know who are prone to this crippling illness and let them know you are there for them, you just might save a life but whatever the outcome you will have done something positive and it could help you feel better about yourself, a win win situation. Give it a try.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.