Cunningham delivers a message of hope after unexpected tragedy
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
The unexpected death of Robin Williams was shocking enough, but the news that it was suicide was a punch to the gut.
For better or for worse (and it can work both ways), we look for redemption in tragedies. As soon as the news got out, people started sharing information about suicide help lines on Twitter and Facebook, and as the week went on, many people used the moment to reflect publicly on their own struggles with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
In that context, I really appreciated “You Might as Well Live,” the little cartoon Darryl Cunningham posted this week: He depicts a man who realizes, in the split second after jumping off a bridge, that he has made a terrible mistake: “All the actions he had taken in his life were fixable, he realised, except for the action he’d just taken.”
Cunningham knows whereof he speaks. He devoted the last chapter of his first graphic novel, Psychiatric Tales, to his own battle with depression and feelings of failure—which brought him close to suicide. “Two things changed my life,” he wrote. “Prozac and the internet.” Prozac helped with the depression; the internet helped him find an audience for his art and connect him with a larger community.
I grew up in a time when people didn’t talk about such things. When I started getting panic attacks, in my mid-teens, I assumed I was going crazy and kept it to myself. Almost 10 years later, someone on a morning television show described exactly what I was experiencing and in that moment, everything changed. Naming my condition, and realizing that it wasn’t unique, was the first step toward getting help. Today I seldom have panic attacks, and when I do, I know how to handle them. Things got better.
We talk about these things now. In response to Williams’s death, Erika Moen posted a powerful comic, “I Want to Live,” at The Nib, but this is a conversation that has been going on for a while now. Ally Brosh’s webcomic about depression went viral. Kevin Budnik weaves his anxiety and eating disorders into his journal comics (he’s running a Kickstarter for his latest one right now). And John Porcellino has illustrated a gem of a book, The Next Day, based on the testimony of four people who attempted suicide but survived. Each of them is there with the same message, “You’re not alone.” But I especially like Cunningham’s cartoon for the message of hope it carries in this darkest of weeks.