Parnell: Celebrity death shows depth of our shallowness

Capital News reporter Kevin Parnell's take on the public's over-reaction to Robin Williams suicide

A lot of people were really sad this week at the death of Robin Williams due to suicide.

And while I too enjoyed Williams’ career as a movie star and comic, sadness was not one of the emotions that I dealt with upon hearing he had taken his own life.

I did not know the man so sadness escaped me.

But Williams death by suicide was front and centre this week.

All you had to do was open whatever social media outlet you prefer and you could find someone saying something about Robin Williams. Almost like we knew him personally.

But he was just a man suffering from mental illness. He is far from the only one; yet his suicide was one of the most talked about events of the year.

No Williams suicide this week brought up frustration for me. Frustration at what we have become as a society in today’s age of technology where we can sit on a computer, post things to the Internet and believe that is actually doing something positive.

Williams suicide was more talked about than other more serious news stories happening right here at home.

Earlier this month in the middle of our beautiful province, a tailings pond failed sending God-only-knows-what kind of chemicals into some of the most pristine territory that we have in B.C.

Untouched and glorious beauty in B.C.’s cariboo region was hammered by what you would have to think is one of the worst mine spills in B.C. history.

But I didn’t see a lot of our outrage on social media at that, not much of an outpouring of concern from the public about such an egregious spill.

What does it say about what we care about as a society?

Why do we care so much about celebrity?

How shallow have we become?

Robin Williams suicide has put the spotlight on mental illness, I’m told.

And hopefully that’s true.

But if you really want to find out about mental illness, take a stroll through downtown Kelowna on any given day and you will find more than enough reminders that there are people who are suffering badly.

Those people need our help, our compassion, our love.

Yet they are not famous, so we don’t care about them.

We don’t make eye contact with them as we walk past them, nose stuffed in an iphone.

We won’t give them a dime thinking they just want to buy booze.

‘Get a job’ we think as we shuffle off glad to put them behind us.

But Robin Williams commits suicide and we are all saddened at such a great loss.

If everyone who posted something about Robin Williams’ suicide actually got off their computer, volunteered at the Gospel Mission, lent a helping hand in our community, gave some money, did anything other than cry about another dead celebrity, then maybe we can get somewhere in this battle with mental health.

Maybe we could make a difference.

But no that’s too hard. We would rather sit on a computer and pretend to care, pretend we are making a difference. Pretend we are helping.

Come on people. Start thinking about what really matters in our community. Stop this nonsense. Get off your computer and get out there and make a difference to people who are living right here in our community. People who need it. People who are in real danger everyday.

You say you care about mental illness…go ahead and prove it.

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