Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem

OPINION: The repugnant response to Katy Perry revealing her mental health demons has made it painstakingly clear why New Zealand has such dreadful depression and suicide rates.

In a YouTube livestream last weekend that coincided with the release of her new album Witness, Perry opened up on her struggles with depression, alcoholism, suicidal thoughts and the pressures of being in the public eye.

"It's hard because I'm ashamed, because 'of course Katy Perry's so strong'!" she told psychologist Dr Siri Sat Nam Singh. "I feel ashamed that I would have those thoughts, feel that low and that depressed.

"I know that sometimes I go through things I think are too intense, I can't handle them - but by [God's] grace, He brings me through it."

Newshub wrote a story about the 'Firework' hitmaker's admission on Sunday, and posted the article on Facebook - but the comments section was filled with messages that severely lacked the empathy that ought to be expected when someone is dealing with such serious issues.

The comments were laden with unhealthy scepticism about whether Perry was being genuine in the therapy session, and filled with callous allegations about how she was using it as a career boost.

Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem
Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem
Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem
Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem
Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem
Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem
Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem

Others said Perry didn't have a legitimate reason to be depressed on account of the vast amounts of money she makes from her music and endorsements.

Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem
Opinion: Our shameful response to Katy Perry's depression is part of NZ's mental health problem

While it's true we have no idea whether this is a calculated ploy to garner sympathy after weeks of being ridiculed online over the quality of her music, appearance and newfound 'activist' persona, the very fact that people jump to that conclusion straight away is a big concern.

No wonder we have the highest rate of teen suicide in the developed world when these insults, accusations and expressions of distrust make up the majority of the comments section on an article of this nature.

Imagine if you were struggling with suicidal thoughts when you read the comments in response to that article. It would cripple you.

How do we expect people in vulnerable situations to seek help when admitting depression is met with such disinterest, cynicism and antagonism? You'd probably rather stay quiet.

Those abhorrent comments - regardless of whether they were made seriously or not - show that it's time to shift some of the blame back onto ourselves.

It's true we need more funding for mental health organisations in New Zealand, and it's true the Government needs to step up and take this growing epidemic more seriously.

But ultimately we - not the Government - are responsible for ensuring those who suffer mental health issues feel comfortable to speak out, and aren't worried about their pleas for help being seen as fraudulent, or done for attention, or overly emotional, or lazy.

We need to stop shifting responsibility for this health crisis, and admit we all can - and should - do better.

  • If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865, Healthline on 0800 611 116 or Youthline at 0800 376 633.

Matt Burrows is a Newshub digital producer.

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