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What It Was Like to Hear News of Dolores O’Riordan’s Death as Someone With Mental Illness

As someone who lives with anxiety and depression, I feel especially hard-hit when I hear about the death of a celebrity or well-known figure who’s publicly struggled with mental illness.

We don’t know the cause of The Cranberries vocalist Dolores O’Riordan’s death yet, and speculating seems irresponsible to both her legacy and her family’s privacy, but learning of her sudden death at the age of 46 sent my stomach into knots.

When you live with the soul-crushing darkness of depression or the irrational worry of diagnosed anxiety, you often feel connected to others who have struggled.

Even though, at times, you may feel deep disconnect from the outside world and struggle to forge lasting connections with family and friends, there is something about struggling — as quiet or loud as it may be — that can create a kinship.

And it’s devastating, even when you’re feeling healthy, motivated and joyful, to hear that somebody else may have lost their fight.

Because you often realize how, in a different story or set of circumstances, it could be you.

I don’t know if it’s a reflection of our culture of excess and escape or the stigma that still surrounds many mental health conditions, but I know that I can’t be the only person whose mind automatically goes to “overdose” or “suicide” whenever a high-profile entertainer or public figure dies suddenly.

It’s a morbid thought, but even if you’ve only — for one fleeting second — thought “What if I could just go to sleep?” or “Maybe my family would be better off without me,” then a footprint of those thoughts, no matter how healed and confident you are in your own mental health journey, might remain embedded in your psyche.

So, for those of us who are able to see the brightness of their future but haven’t forgotten the darkness of past times, I urge you to keep your head up.

If speculation of O’Riordan’s, or another’s death is triggering to you, please open up to somebody you can trust.

And, most importantly, please remember you are not alone in this journey.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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