Gene Simmons, frontman of KISS

Since the unfortunate death of Robin William on Monday, there’s been a lot of memorials, tributes, and discussions about the loss of this famous entertainer and his battles with depression, substance abuse, and, as we learned recently, with Parkinson’s disease. While most of the discussion has been rather good and dedicated to healing and trying to understand the tragedy, there’s been a lot of people whose contributions have been less than helpful. After the coroner’s report came out, some news networks chose to focus on the degree of rigor mortis that had set into Williams’ body or how he killed himself rather than have a meaningful discussion on the effects of depression or on the actor’s life (why would we want to know that CSI stuff on a real actor?). Rush Limbaugh said that the reason Williams took his life was that, as a leftist, he was never satisfied with what he had and kept wanting more, and his dissatisfaction led him to ultimately take his life (why does anyone listen to this guy anymore?). And that group of ignoramuses who think they’re Christians but are not, Westboro Baptist, has announced plans to picket Robin Williams’ funeral (do any of these people have day jobs, or do they make and sell crystal meth to finance their protests?). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that numerous people sent hurtful and abusive tweets to Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda on Twitter, causing her to shut down her account (sometimes I think the Internet just brings out more of the worst in us than the best).

But the worst reaction I’ve heard is from Gene Simmons, frontman from popular band KISS. Mere days after telling immigrants to the United States to “learn goddamn English” on a HuffPost Live interview, Simmons said during an interview with SongFacts.com that he doesn’t “get along with anybody who’s a drug addict and has a dark cloud over their head and sees themselves as a victim.” He went further to say:

Drug addicts and alcoholics are always, “The world is a harsh place.” My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I don’t want to hear fuck all about “the world as a harsh place.” She gets up every day, smells the roses and loves life. And for a putz, 20-year-old kid to say, “I’m depressed, I live in Seattle.” Fuck you, then kill yourself.

I never understand, because I always call them on their bluff. I’m the guy who says “Jump!” when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, “That’s it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to jump.” Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the fuck up, have some dignity and jump! You’ve got the crowd.

Now, I’ve never exactly been a big KISS fan to begin with, but Simmons’ comment have definitely made it very unlikely that I ever will become one. Sure, your representative has sent a message to the HuffPost saying that you regret your comments and that they were spur of the moment, but I’m not sure how many people will be forgiving you any time soon for this. Especially since you didn’t come out and say it yourself but had your representative shoot off an email.

And let me take the time to point out a few things about depression, and other mental disorders that can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors. First, let’s get one thing in the open right now. Depression is an illness. Sometimes it’s even a chronic illness, like diabetes or cystic fibrosis. Plenty of people forget or don’t realize that depression is an illness, maybe because it’s in the brain and isn’t caused by a virus. Even so, telling people with a chronic illness that they should kill themselves is just wrong. We don’t tell people with MS, Crohns disease, and lupus to kill themselves. Instead we tell them to have hope that treatments will emerge someday and give money to the charities that raise money for research. I don’t see why people with depression have to be treated differently.

Not to mention that if every person with serious depression followed your advice and actually took their lives rather than mope around, we’d have a lot of deaths. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 16 million adults aged 18 and over suffered from at least one major depressive episode in 2012, or 7% of the US population. Some of those people would be people I know. I and many of my friends and family have dealt with depression or know someone who has dealt with it over the years. That’s how prevalent depression is. At one point in my life my own depression was bad enough to make me consider suicide. Should I kill myself then? Or should I work on treatment and making myself better?

And I applaud your mother for being able to continue living and finding meaning in life after her experiences with the Holocaust. It’s not easy to do that. Many survivors suffered from problems afterwards, including depression, paranoia, anxiety, and many other disorders. A few even took their own lives. And they probably felt the same sort of feelings of darkness that the kid in Seattle felt.

That’s the insidious thing about depression. It affects people in different ways, from all walks of life, and it affects so many. And still we have no idea what causes it. There’s plenty of research that points to it to being a biological or genetic disorder, as well as research that points to environmental or social causes. And there’s even evidence to support that a combination of these factors could cause depression. Depression can also be a side effect of other chronic illnesses. Plenty of people with cancer, Parkinson’s, or MS end up developing depression. We don’t entirely understand what causes depression like that either, but we do research and we try to fight back.

And don’t be the person who yells at the person on the ledge to just jump and get it over with. Very rarely is anything ever grained by taking a life, especially one’s own. And people kill themselves for a number of reasons: depression, anxiety, paranoia, schizophrenia. Sometimes they feel they are actually helping people or the world by taking their lives. Other times they feel that they don’t matter in the long run and no one will miss them. And occasionally we can’t understand the reasons why people take their lives. But that does’t mean we should ignore them or egg them on. That’d just be too cruel and would mean humanity isn’t worth savng after all.

Rest in peace, O Captain, My Captain.

So let me do what you obviously couldn’t do, Chaim Witz. I’m not going to tell people with depression or considering taking their lives to either have an attitude adjustment or just get it over with and kill themselves. If you are depressed or considering suicide, talk to a licensed therapist. If you can’t afford one or there’s none in your area, talk to a teacher, counselor, clergymen, or someone you trust who is in a position to help you. Or if you live in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, where therapists and counselors are standing by to help you.

And I know things won’t always be sunshine and daisies. In fact, even with treatment there are plenty of people who have trouble and feel down or upset. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Like any illness, you’ve just got to keep working at it and hoping that things will improve. Perhaps then, things will get better.

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Comments
  1. Thank you for your article and fact finding with giving credit where you got the information. Refreshing to read a piece with opinion mixed with quotes and facts, without twisting them to fit into the work.

  2. kassienette says:

    I am stunned. I can’t believe the words I just read from Gene Simmons. Just wow. Thank you for sharing that information. Very well written article! Great information!

    • I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for reading and commenting. His words were very inaccurate and unacceptable, so I did a lot of research so I could back up a rebuttal. I’m glad it’s paying off.

      It is really shocking to hear such a well-respected musician make such insensitive and rude comments, and I’m sure he’s going to be feeling the repercussions from this incident for a long time coming. In fact, I plan on writing a short story about it for one of my classes this fall and then seeing if I can get it published in a magazine.

  3. Wow, never before have I had so little respect for this man. Still, Rush Limbaugh took the cake for me, what with his drinking, eating, pill addiction and multiple failed marriages. Yeah, he sure knows about happiness, right?

    • Yeah, these my-way-or-the-highway sort of folks are the ones who lack in happiness, because things can never be the way they want them. And sometimes, they should just keep their mouths shut. Not just because they’ll say something stupid, but because when faced with a horrific tragedy, sometimes silence is better than trying to cast around for some sort of explanation.

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