I feel a sincere need to speak on this.
For the first time, I listened to the NWP Radio show last night because it was a tribute to Brandi Hawbaker. Her suicide has deeply affected me, and I hoped to hear some interesting perspective on her life and death. Almost two hours into the show, I did hear those things from BrandiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ex-boyfriend Brandon and friend Jenn, though they were abruptly cut off in the midst of a very interesting discussion at the showÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s end.
Dan Druff, who I know didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean his comments in any sort of malicious way, exemplified many of the opinions IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve heard since the news of BrandiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s suicide became public. People who have no personal, family, or friend history with mental illness have a rather narrow-minded and simplistic view of most types of mental difficulties. Brandon and Jenn did their best to dispel myths and shed some light on the complexities of people inflicted with such a disease, but it seems to be very difficult for outsiders like Druff to comprehend it.
Over the past week, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had numerous conversations with people in the poker community about BrandiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s suicide. Most of their comments are rooted in pure shock at the thought of someone taking her own life. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the most selfish thing someone can do,Ã¢â‚¬Â someone said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“She must have done it to get back at the people who were mean to her,Ã¢â‚¬Â another commented. Ã¢â‚¬Å“How does life get so bad that you want to die?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Let me first say that I only knew Brandi through a handful of encounters. I met her during the 2006 Bellagio Five Diamond series when she tagged along for a meal with Dutch Boyd and me. It was a time that neither of them was in a good place, and it was a disturbing day to say the least. At the 2007 WSOP, I saw Brandi several times, and she made sure to mention to me that I was the only female in poker who was nice to her. While IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure that is not true, it made me sad to hear her say it. She also tried to get me to spend a day at the spa with her, but I was too busy with my work schedule at the time. In no way can I say that I knew her or had any personal insight into her thoughts or actions.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to also mention Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in a roundabout way Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that I have my own history with someone very close to me who suffered from depression throughout her life. Though I do not have any personal knowledge of personality disorders, such as the kind that Brandi reportedly suffered from, I feel that I know enough about suicide to make a few points.
It was stated on NWP Radio that BrandiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mental illness was hereditary. She had been through counseling and taken medication, but neither helped enough to save her. Despite being highly intelligent and receiving the only type of help that people knew to give her, and while she hated hurting people and doing things that she couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take back, it was part of the disease.
Again, while I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t speak to the personality disorder, I can address suicide. And though I have absolutely no idea about what actually went through BrandiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head prior to the suicide, I know what leads many people to go through with it.
Most people who contemplate suicide do so because they suffer from an incredible amount of pain Ã¢â‚¬â€œ mainly a deep depressive psychological pain Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that only gets worse over time without the proper treatment. The pain becomes so debilitating that there are few ways to ease it. Brandi was a cutter; she showed me the cuts on her legs. Sometimes, cutters feel that the release of blood will ease the pain. But when it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work, the cuts can get deeper and the yearning for relief becomes overwhelming. Not every person in this state of mind resorts to cutting, and those who donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have no other way to stop the internal pain other than to end the life altogether.
Some who commit suicide do so in a lonely state of mind, believing that no one cares. Others have such a distorted view of themselves and those around them that they truly feel that they are a burden on others. By committing suicide, it is a way to end the suffering of those around them, who will no longer have to be hurt, embarrassed, sad, or angry.
Those who are left behind after a suicide of a friend or family member are devastated and riddled with guilt. It is inevitable and will only subside over time. Hopefully, Jenn and Brandon will consider counseling to help them through the rough time, but instructing them not to feel guilty is not the answer. They must go through a process of examining their own actions Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not because they did anything wrong or inappropriate, but it is the natural progression of dealing with a tragedy such as this.
I can say with much confidence that most suicide victims do not intend to leave their loved ones with such guilt, but their thoughts are so distorted that it is nearly impossible to think of it as anything but a favor to those people. There is enough self-blame in the picture Ã¢â‚¬â€œ on the part of the deceased and those left behind Ã¢â‚¬â€œ to go around. But I will speculate just as Jenn and Brandon did tonight that no poker forum, poker player, or incident in the world of poker drove Brandi to end her life. Blame of any kind in this situation is counter-productive and a waste of time. The people involved have their own feelings to sort through, but most know that blame is not the answer.
My reason for posting this is that there are such misconceptions and ignorance about mental illness because it has traditionally been a private, secretive disease. It can be so terrifying that those who have never dealt with it simply cannot fathom the realities of it.
Look around. Chances are you know someone with a mental illness Ã¢â‚¬â€œ whether it is being treated or not. Listen to those people Ã¢â‚¬â€œ donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t judge or draw conclusions based on generalities. Whether you can help or not may be a moot point, but it is important to try to understand and be aware. More than 32,000 people commit suicide each year.
I hope that Brandi has found the peace she sought for so long.
Jenn and Brandon have created a tribute video to Brandi that can be found at RawVegas.tv.