I’m pretty sure Henry Rollins just said the stupidest, grossest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about suicide—and I know a lot of assholes, so that’s really saying something.
“When someone commits this act, he or she is out of my analog world. I know they existed, yet they have nullified their existence because they willfully removed themselves from life. They were real but now they are not…I no longer take this person seriously. I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them.” -Henry Rollins for LA Weekly (I’m not linking to this article, because it sucks. I’m sure you can find it if you want to with “the Google.”)
Rollins posted these and other idiotic statements about suicide last week in an “edgy” article for LA Weekly called “Fuck Suicide,” condemning Robin Williams and anyone else who has ever taken their own life. Henry Rollins is a lucky guy. He’ll never understand suicide. I sure wish I didn’t. I don’t have that luxury—and I’m not alone.
My friend Brandon killed himself two years ago. He wasn’t my best friend. He was just a really fucking cool, kind, generous, compassionate, funny, intelligent guy that I was lucky to know. He was someone I worked with about 15 or 20 times in the six years that I worked at the suicide prevention hotline—yes, THAT suicide prevention hotline—the one that everyone and his brother posted on Facebook after Robin Williams killed himself. Working at that hotline was the most profound experience of my life, in large part because I got to work with people like Brandon. He was a lovely person.
Brandon helped more people than I or he or his family will ever know. I watched him do it. I heard him do it. I talked to many callers who told me that they meant no offense to me, but that they’d really prefer to talk to Brandon instead because he was the only person who had ever made them feel safe and understood. We worked the overnight shifts together. You get to know someone in a special kind of way when you’re sitting up at 3:30am waiting for the next crisis call to roll in.
He was a musician—a really good one—like, a WAY better one than Henry Rollins. And he was a good cook. I remember the skewers and potstickers he cooked up for everyone at our annual picnic one year. And he was SO funny. I remember one night he told me about how his high school band wrote and recorded a thrash metal song called “Donna Martin Graduates” about the epic civil disobedience episode of the original “Beverly Hills, 90210.” I laughed so hard when I heard it, I cried. He was such a joyful, laugh-inducing person.
Brandon was very talented (unlike Henry Rollins), but more than anything else he was compassionate and kind (also unlike Henry Rollins.) He did more for the world in his 38 years on Earth than Henry Rollins’ terrible music and pretentious douchebag poetry ever did. I’d bet my life on it.
I heard Brandon pour out empathy to the loneliest, most desperate people in the world. It welled out of him like a fountain of goodness. It’s a special gift to be able to do that.
I watched him speak with eloquence, grace, courage and kindness as he trained other counselors who hoped to give relief to other suicidal callers in crisis. I never heard him judge anyone. I never heard him make anyone feel like shit about themselves. And, again, unlike Henry Rollins, I never heard him try to speak with authority on things that he knew absolutely nothing about. I always liked him. Everyone did. How could you not like Brandon? He was goodness personified.
Brandon valiantly fought a battle against bipolar disorder for about 20 years before he hung himself. When he was educating others about suicide, he would sometimes hold up a massive Ziploc bag of pill bottles, explaining, bluntly and bravely: “These are my meds.” He fought hard. And, obviously, he suffered much harder.
Rollins ended his clickbait diatribe by saying that people like Robin Williams and Brandon and everyone else who has ever considered suicide have just “gotta hang in there”—for the sake of people who died too young, before they wanted to. I challenge Henry Rollins to live the rest of his life, not for himself, but for random people he’s never met and knows nothing about and that have nothing to do with him. I’m guessing he couldn’t do it—nor should he want to. It was a stupid statement. No one can live their lives for someone they’ve never met and have no connection to. It was a sickeningly ignorant thing for him to say.
Henry Rollins is such a lucky guy. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get it SO MUCH that he can actually feel contempt for people who suffered horribly, and died alone. I never heard Brandon shit on anyone whose life he didn’t understand. He didn’t do that, because unlike Henry Rollins, he wasn’t a self-absorbed douchebag who lived just to hear himself talk.
Brandon was a real person. He existed. And I will always take him seriously.
Eat a dick Henry Rollins.
Donate to the Suicide Prevention Center Hotline in honor of Brandon Toh here: http://events.didihirsch.org/site/PageServer