M*A*S*H was one of my favourite TV programmes when I was a teenager. At first, I suppose, just for the crazy humour, but later because of the deep-felt pain and sorrow that the humour was a cover for and a defence against. Just how do you cope with day after day of watching people suffering, if not with humour? So when I first discovered the title of the theme song, I was disappointed. “Suicide is painless”. The song doesn’t come over (at least not to me) as a satirical reaction to pain, but more like a resignation to it: Live or die, it makes no difference, you lose either way. Knowing that the song was written by a 14 year old son of a TV-director does give it a slightly different perspective – this was definitely meant to be tongue-in-cheek and the kid earned millions from it, so good for him. But even so, there is a seductive quality to it that gives me the creeps. And of course it’s not true.
Suicide isn’t painless. And the really terrible thing is that it should be necessary to say so. But every year there are people who decide that suicide is less painful than whatever it is they’re struggling with.
Today is World Mental Health Day, and I am really grateful to my old school-mate Janet Carr for these short films, made by people who have lost loved ones to suicide. I am in awe of their strength and courage in coping with a tragedy I in no way can understand. What I do understand is this: One of the most important things we can do in life is to share hope. M*A*S*H told us that even in the chaos of war, there can be humanity, kindness and love. And humour! These things aren’t exclusive to any culture or religion. They are there for us all, and we all need them. The world is full of pain – and as Beck says, the pain has to be felt, and has to be dealt with – but we mustn’t let it win. Somehow, there must always be hope.