Friday, August 13, 2010

Bad advice. Friday, August 13, 2010.

“We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain.” – William R. Alger

Have you ever gotten really bad advice? I sure have – from friends as well as professionals. I’ve had no choice but to put my trust in the judgment of doctors, and sometimes the doctors haven’t always known what’s best. Sometimes the medication they’ve given me has worked absolute wonders, and other times it’s made me horrifically ill.

Sometimes their suggestions have made sense to me, and other times they haven’t. (I’m recalling the psychiatrist who told me, when I was single and frustrated that I wasn’t in a relationship, that men don’t like smart women so I should “play dumb” in order to snag a guy).

Usually, it’s a good thing to at least lend an ear to the advice of others. Often, other people see the big picture, or have more experience than we do, or special training or education in an area. People have always asked for counsel.

What’s different today is that now, we have Google to ask. The answer to any question can be found at our fingertips. In the past, it took a certain amount of money – and credibility – to publish a book or a manual. But any whack-job can have a website, and I think most of them do.

The world was shocked in 1992 when the book “Final Exit” was published. It was a handbook about euthanasia, aimed at the terminally ill. Today, such concern seems quaint. Google will provide all the information you need if you want to end your life. Your attempt may not be “completed,” as they say, but there is advice out there.

What’s even scarier are the “Friends” you can make on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook that will communicate with you and offer “help.” The help I’m talking about here includes information about the number and kind of pills to take, or the direction to slit your wrists. With “Friends” like this, you don’t need enemies … but if you’re in a suicidal frame of mind, these suggestions can truly seem to be in your best interest. After all, who wants to “fail” at suicide?

We need to take a step back and see this “help” for what it is: a lie. A true friend doesn’t want you to suffer, but also doesn’t see death as your cure-all. A true friend will listen non-judgementally, but will also encourage you to seek help.

A cyber-space friend is limited; he won’t be able to drive to your house and escort you to the ER. But he can give you what you really need – moral support – instead of what your mind is telling you that you want: permission to die. A true friend – IRL or in cyber-space – will value your life. And they’ll want you to value your life, too. THAT’S the best psychiatric advice, and it’s free.

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