Nora: I've never been involved with any church because to me, they tend to make God sound like an abusive father. "God is love, but you must fear him."
Dino: Mary Kay didn't care for that either. There's an old story of a devout man who gets a radio report that there's a flood coming. He's being told he should evacuate, but he won't do it. He says, "It's O.K. I have faith in God, God will see me through." The flood hits, things are a mess, he's on his roof. A rowboat comes by, they say, "Get in the boat." He says, "No, no ... I have faith in God, I will be fine. God will see me through." The flood water's up to the top of his chimney, he's hanging on the chimney, he's this close to drowning. A helicopter comes by, they say, "Come on, climb on board!" But he says, "No, no ... I have faith in God, God will see me through." The man drowns, goes to the Pearly Gates, asks for an interview with God. He asks God, "What happened? Why did you forsake me? I have been devout, I have followed, I have had faith." God looks at him and says, "I sent you a radio report, a rowboat, and a helicopter ... what more did you want?" That's exactly how I feel when I hear these people say, "Well, they took their own life, they're condemned to Hell," I imagine God saying to them, "Look, I've let you learn about mental disorders, manic depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, brain chemical disorders, etc. ... I've let you discover all of these things so you can go and treat people, what more do you want?"
Why stay in these old superstitions and let people die? If you believe in God, and you believe that he has given us the ability to think and learn, then there's a reason we've learned about these illnesses ... so we can do something about it, and not still believe that suicide or mental illness is a moral thing, or a thing about weakness or a lack of character, or an act of selfishness, or a lack of faith. To believe in condemnation, because of illness, is not only living in the Dark Ages, it's dangerous and it's killing people. People don't think about that ... many still believe it. I still have people come to me and say, "I will say special prayers for the salvation of her soul," and so on, and I tell them "Her soul is fine."
Nora: It gives people an excuse to judge someone.
Dino: Yes, and it also hurts a lot of people. It may have been the intention of the makers of What Dreams May Come to say, "If you kill yourself, you go to Hell," hoping that it would keep people from doing it - but in the end it's done more damage to us survivors than good to those who are ill. There is no such condemnation of suicide in the Bible so it is pretty much universally believed that this is why the majority of religions said such things, figuring that if you're afraid of Hell, you won't do it. We're beyond that point now. We know that 90% of all suicides are related to untreated mental illness.
Nora: It's similar to a patient suffering from terminal cancer who would rather die than linger in that state. You get tired, and feel like if it's not going to get any better, why torture yourself by staying?
Dino: As long as people continue to make moral and character judgments, nothing's going to be done. People are going to continue to hide behind fear and stigma and not seek help. There have been so many advances in everything from gun laws to auto safety to child-proof caps, that has lowered death rates in all areas except for one - suicide, because it has nothing to do with the methods used. It has everything to do with treating mental illness. It is estimated that on average, a suicide happens in this country every 17 minutes. Suicide is one of the top ten killers in the U.S. Among young people ages 15-24 it's number 3. That's astounding when you think about all the things that can affect a young person's mortality. Drunk driving, child abuse, teen violence, drug, AIDS ... to imagine that most of those rank below suicide ... and every one of those have advocacy groups. You hear about D.A.R.E., Mothers Against Drunk Driving, legislators wanting to do something about teen violence, but who do you hear advocating mental health issues? Whole generations of Americans are being lost to this. To have these kinds of statistics, to know that over 300,000 people will attempt suicide this year alone, the majority women ... that 40 percent will attempt it again and be successful, with those kinds of numbers it is startling to hear a population that still passes judgment. That's what has to be changed.
Nora: I've been told, "You just want to feel sorry for yourself; you just want a pity party." What would you say to someone who views a suicide attempt not as a cry for help, but as a bluff to get attention?
Dino: Anybody who says that is really fooling themselves because you gotta think, wouldn't somebody attempting suicide just for attention be the clearest sign that there is a mental problem going on?
Nora: You would think so. It's like, what's the difference between a cry for help and getting attention?
Dino: Exactly! To say, "Oh, it's not real," they are courting disaster.
Doreen: Why is it that they want this attention? People never go into that.
Nora: Because they don't want to deal with it.
Dino: Somebody who throws a hissy-fit or walks naked down the street to get attention, that's one thing, but someone trying to end their life for attention should set off some red flags. But it's very much a denial mechanism. For many people, myself included, the idea of suicide is incomprehensible. I do sit and wonder if Mary Kay had told me she was suicidal, would I have believed her? I've said many times that I wish she had told me so I could have done something, but I wonder if I would have, because I have since talked to a lot of people who say that even when they had loved ones who had made previous attempts, it was inconceivable to them that they would do it again. For many of us, the whole idea is completely unthinkable - to me suicide is not an option.
Nora: When I was younger, I used to say, "If you're willing to give up your entire life, why not drop everything, move to the other side of the globe and start a whole new life instead?"
Dino: That's where I think some of that comes from, someone saying, "Oh, it's just a play for attention," it's just part of the denial factor, saying "People who commit suicide are total wackos who are into drugs or alcohol, or they committed a crime ... but there's nothing wrong with you." This country is woefully ignorant of mental illness. I mean, who knew that having stomach problems, nausea, muscle aches, insomnia and dizzy-spells were symptoms of a mental disorder?
Nora: You don't understand until you've personally felt it, how your mental state can seriously affect your physical state as well.
Dino: I had never heard of Generalized Anxiety Disorder until this happened. We go to doctors to get checked over for everything else, but we don't routinely get a mental check-up. The stigma so easily comes because you become that diagnosis. You hear, "I am manic-depressive," but you never hear, "I am lung cancer," or, "I am broken arm." That's why my focus with the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Project is entirely on the entertainment industry, on the concept that if the fear is bad for someone not in the industry, it's ten times worse for someone whose professional and personal reputation is so much on the line.
Nora: So "out there" for the public to see.
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The Official Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Site
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