The Tragic Death of Mac Miller
At the painfully young age of 26 years old, hip-hop artist Mac Miller has died of a suspected drug overdose.
Whenever I hear these stories I’m hit hard by them. I knew nothing about Mac Miller as an artist, but if the outpouring of grief is to be believed, he was a young man who inspired millions to battle their own inner demons. The tragedy here is that he lost his own battle.
As I poured through the comments posted in reaction to his death, I found that amongst the expressions of sadness and heartache, I was met with many toxic comments blaming either Mac Miller himself due to his history of substance abuse, or his ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande because of a dangerous perception that she “should have been there” for him with no thought for her own mental health.
I want to talk about these two issues today.
Firstly, to the matter of substance abuse and addiction. For those who have never experienced mental illness in any sense, it can be all to easy to blame the living or deceased and their drug habit because “they should have known better”. Let me dispel that myth – Mr Miller almost certainly did know better. There is a world of difference between what you know and how you feel. I know this to be true for me personally because during my struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide, I once turned to drugs to mask the pain – I didn’t care if that one time killed me.
As recently as yesterday I was in such a bad place that the thought of getting high just to forget it all for a while crossed my mind. Fortunately, these are now passing thoughts for me, and I would never act on them. I’ve never suffered from drug or alcohol addiction, but I’d be lying if I said I’d never experienced the urge to get lost in psychoactive escapism. This isn’t to say I want to plunge a syringe of heroin into my veins, but when I’m low there are days when I consider how much easier it might feel to smoke, drink or get high on weed, just to get through the day.
For all my issues, I’m blessed enough to be able to dismiss these thoughts.
I gave up smoking cigarettes exactly 280 days ago to the hour at time of writing. I’ve not had a drop of alcohol in 118 days, and the last non-prescription drug I had was the one somebody slipped into my drink without my knowledge on May 16th 2017. I don’t even take anti-depressants anymore because I came days away from ending my own life in June due to the catastrophic reaction I was having to Mirtazapine. Had my Mum not recognised the effect that the medication was having when she did, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have been dead within a week.
I say all this to highlight just how easy it can be to fall into the trap of substance abuse to numb the feelings of worthlessness. It’s used as a means to forget how little you want to be here, but it quickly spirals into further feelings of depression because of the stigma attached to it.
“Druggie”. “Smackhead”. “Waster”.
We need to recognise that substance abuse and addiction aren’t the causes of mental illness. They’re the potential effects. They’re symptoms.
Nobody wants to be an addict. It’s like quicksand. Instead of letting people drown, we should be throwing them a rope. Addicts are as deserving of help as anybody else; I know this because I’ve known more than my fair share of addicts over the years and ultimately they’re just good people in pain.
Mac Miller was not a bad person, nor did he deserve this. He was an artist. He was a son. He was a friend. He was a lover.
This brings me to my second point – Ariana Grande.
There appears to be this narrative in place suggesting that she is somehow responsible for his death.
“She should have been there.”
“She never should have left him.”
“It’s her fault he’s dead.”
Firstly, take all those comments away and imagine how this young woman feels having been met with the knowledge that a man she loved has died. Even today, years on, if I found out that Hannah or Charlotte had died, I’d be utterly heartbroken. Then to be told that it’s your fault? That’s unthinkable.
There seems to be this prevailing idea that women are the gatekeepers to happiness for men; that they are solely responsible for the wellbeing of their partners. This notion is indescribably dangerous. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your relationship to another person consists of; you have a duty of care to yourself before anybody else.
If leaving was what she needed to do to find happiness, then so be it. She is in no way to blame. You can’t place the weight of another person’s life on her shoulders and call that fair. If you sit in the school of thought that suggests that she is in any way responsible, I’d ask you to consider how differently you would have dealt with the situation. If you think you’d have stayed at the expense of your own happiness and health, you’re either a liar or a fool.
What happened this weekend is the fault of nobody, which may hurt even more than having somebody you can truly blame. This was a tragedy; no matter how you spin it. A young man is dead. A family is mourning. His friends are lost, and old lovers are sat thinking the worst of themselves because that’s what people do in these situations.
Don’t make that worse.
I’ll end with this; never underestimate the power of reaching out to somebody who’s struggling. Never underestimate the impact of a kind word, or the offer to listen. Think of everybody you love and tell them today that you love them. Remember that life isn’t easy. Love isn’t easy.
But kindness? That’s as easy as it gets.
If you or a loved one are in crisis, please consider using the below resources to seek help. There is no shame in it, and it may well be the most important and brave step you ever take.
(UK) Samaritans – for everyone.
Number - 116 123 – 24 hours a day.
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
(US) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Number – 1-800-273-8255
Website - https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Number - 0808 1 606 606
Website - drugsline.org
(UK) Talk to Frank - Offers free confidential drugs information and advice 24 hours a day
Number - 0300 123 6600
Website - talktofrank.com
(UK) Narcotics Anonymous
Number - 0300 999 1212
Website - ukna.org
(UK) Alcoholics Anonymous
Helpline for London - 020 7833 0022 (10am to 10pm daily)
National helpline - 0800 9177 650
Website - alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk
(US) Various Drug Abuse Hotlines
Number - 1-877-974-9376
(UK) Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men.
Number - 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day.
Website - www.thecalmzone.net
(UK) Papyrus – for people under 35.
Number - 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm.
Text - 07786 209697
Email - email@example.com
Website - www.papyrus-uk.org
(UK) The Silver Line – for older people.
Number - 0800 4 70 80 90
Website - www.thesilverline.org.uk