Stephen Fry is the epitome of a national treasure. A man who exudes kindness, humour, a fierce intellect and all the traits of a lovable genius. From books to broadcasting, Fry has become one of the most influential and well loved media figures in British culture over the past 25 years. He has been very honest about his struggles with bi-polar disorder, and yesterday he spoke openly about his attempted suicide last year, whilst filming a documentary in the US about ‘gay cures’.
Obviously this is a very brave, honest and frank admission – however, the most pertinent factor in Fry’s interview was his dismissal of the ubiquitous ‘why?’ reaction.
“You may say, ‘How can anybody who’s got it all be so stupid as to want to end it all?’ That’s the point, there is no ‘why?’ That’s not the right question. There is no reason. If there was reason for it, you could reason someone out of it.”
From my own personal experience as a stand-up poet and journalism student, friends and performers who may be ashamed of something in their lives or feel undervalued, can believe that success, fame or acclaim will somehow erase their pain and fill up the empty void that some young men feel. Stephen Fry is a prime example of how this is simply not the case.
“I realise that being Stephen Fry is a very happy thing to be; people are extraordinarily nice to me. Mostly it’s great, but there are times when you’re on stage or when I’m doing QI and laughing [on the outside], but inside I’m going ‘I want to f**king die’.”
Success will not cure depression. Fame will not delete any painful experiences of the past. And whilst widespread acclaim may boost self-confidence, it isn’t going to eradicate the possibility of feeling hopeless and having suicidal thoughts.
Fry has an illness that doesn’t care if he wins an outstanding achievement award. It’s an illness that should spark conversations and discussions amongst young men, to destigmatise and truly understand depression and suicide. Stephen Fry’s honest public admission helps illustrate that depression and suicide can effect anyone, regardless of how much they earn, how many Baftas are on their mantelpiece or how many followers they have on Twitter. Depression is an illness, not a life choice, and isn’t an issue that can be ‘reasoned away’. For your honesty and bravery, and for bringing to the forefront an issue that has too long stayed in the shadows, Mr Fry, we salute you!
If you’ve been effected by bi-polar, depression or suicidal thoughts, you can call the CALM helpline on 0800 58 58 58 (nationwide) or 0808 802 58 58 (London) for support and information. Lines open 5pm – midnight, every day of the year.