CRY FOR HELP

Sinead O’Connor Safe After Posting Suicidal Video. Now Will People Listen to Her?

Salacious headlines about the singer’s alarming suicidal video—and ensuing mockery—are obscuring her valuable message about the reality of mental illness.

Sinead O’Connor is safe.

That’s the urgent message that was posted on the 50-year-old singer’s Facebook page Tuesday, days after O’Connor had published a concerning 12-minute video revealing through frequent sobs that she was by herself in a $70-a-night Travelodge motel in New Jersey and suicidal after feeling like she was being punished by her loved ones and alone because of her mental illness.

The video was posted August 3, but started to more powerfully gain attention in the last 24 hours. It surged to over a million pageviews after singer Annie Lennox posted a note pleading for someone in O’Connor’s life to help her.

“I realise that Sinead has some serious mental health issues, but she appears to be completely out on a limb and I'm concerned for her safety,” Lennox wrote. “Are there no close friends or family who could be with her to give her some loving support? It's terrible to see her in such a vulnerable state.” 

The “Nothing Compares 2 U” singer’s raw and seemingly urgent cry for help, posted on her Facebook along with the hashtag #OneofMillions, was made with, as she says in the video, the hope “that this video is somehow helpful.”

Following a troubling few years for the famously outspoken star, it’s a harrowing example of how she’s used social media to expose the truths of her own mental illness—one that we might delicately say could be helpful now that it has been revealed that she is safe.

“I am now living in a Travelodge motel in the arse end of New Jersey,” she says in the video. “I'm all by myself. And there's absolutely nobody in my life except my doctor, my psychiatrist - the sweetest man on earth, who says I'm his hero—and that's about the only fucking thing keeping me alive at the moment... and that's kind of pathetic.”

“I want everyone to know what it's like, that's why I'm making this video,” she continues. “Mental illness, it's like drugs, it doesn't give a shit who you are, and equally what's worse, it's the stigma, it doesn't give a shit who you are. Suddenly all the people who are supposed to be loving you and taking care of you are treating you like shit. It's like a witch hunt.”

She sobs throughout the video, begging for someone who loves her to come and save her, saying that they’re mad at her for the way she treated them during episodes of mental illness. She says she’s tired of every part of her life being dismissed because of her mental illness: “I’ve got a good heart, even if I’ve been an a-hole a lot of the time.”

She brings up the #OneofMillions hashtag, saying that it “should be our catchphrase from now on because I am one of millions. Why are we alone? ... The people with mental illness are the most vulnerable people on earth.”

She says her hope is that the video is helpful, “Not actually to me but the fact that I know that I'm only one of millions of millions of millions of people who are just like me actually who don't have necessarily the resources that I have in my heart or my purse for that matter.”

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After the video spread through the internet over the last day and concern for her safety heightened, O’Connor’s Facebook page was updated by someone who said they were with her Tuesday morning and that she is safe.

“Hi everybody, I am posting at Sinead’s request, to let everyone who loves her know she is safe, and she is not suicidal,” the post read. “She is surrounded by love and receiving the best of care. She asked for this to be posted knowing you are concerned for her. I won’t respond to any questions, so please understand. I hope this comforts those who are concerned.”

Interestingly, NorthJersey.com reported that the Travelodge in South Hackensack, where O’Connor said in a subsequent post was the exact location she was staying, had no record of the singer staying in the motel. Regardless of where O’Connor may or may not have been, there is no denying the tragedy and also, perhaps, the impact of her Facebook video confessional.

Mental health issues are rarely discussed with frankness—or even at all—on a mainstream scale. When they are, they are often misunderstood, dismissed, or so superficially understood to even perhaps be dangerous. (Look to the uproar over how Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why depicted depression and suicide for proof.)

Is it brave or irresponsible for O’Connor to bare her thoughts in such brutal terms, raising a siren call for her safety and even her life?

It’s a nuanced debate to be had, and one that will likely be lost amidst the salacious traffic-grabbing headlines blaring about Sinead O’Connor being alone and suicidal—and, truthfully, a conversation that will be ignored because of the instinct to dismiss O’Connor as crazy or unstable because of her past behavior.

This is, after all, a singer who entered the public consciousness with middle fingers blazing and a manifesto for disruption. Only slightly less famous than her notorious shredding of a photo of the pope during a performance on Saturday Night Live is the story of how she got her start in the industry: when she was young and looking for a record contract, an executive told her she was commercially promising because of her long, pretty hair. She promptly shaved it.

Recent years saw a transition from badass to troubling. A quick search of recent headlines about O’Connor in the last few years reveals an upsetting history: “Sinead O’Connor Found After Going Missing.” “Sinead O’Connor Reportedly Suicidal.” “Sinead O’Connor Calls Family ‘Murderers.’” “Sinead O’Connor ‘Safe’ After ‘Overdose.’”

In 2015, she posted what at first appeared like a suicide note on her Facebook page, including the sentence, “I have taken an overdose”—reportedly in response to a custody battle over her youngest son with Irish folk musician Donal Lunny.

When a celebrity is written off as a wildcard—other notable viral internet moments include soliciting a sexual partner through an ad on her website and an open letter to Miley Cyrus warning her that her sexual baiting during her twerking-and-licking phase was going to ruin her career—they are either never taken seriously or considered a self-destructive time bomb.

O’Connor’s video deserves more respect and consideration than that. She is, as she says, #OneOfMillions. She’s always been one to start a conversation. Maybe the next one will be about that.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).