Sinead O’Connor is a polarizing artist. She imploded her own rising career by tearing up a picture of the pope in 1992 and has never been able to reclaim it entirely. She is known for being a bit crazy, somewhat suicidal, and incredibly volatile. She involves herself in meaningless Twitter feuds, and makes wild accusations. She rewrote the Irish National Anthem, and has written numerous incendiary letters to the Irish government. Most recently she is collecting lawsuits after accusing Arsenio Hall of being Prince’s drug dealer. She’s kooky and cantankerous, and I still love her. She’s also missing.
Sinead apparently had a very good reason for tearing up that picture of the pope. I’m sure anyone who spent their teenage years in a Magdalene asylum would have that urge, at the very least…and I honestly believe that she would have garnered a lot of sympathy and outrage if she had begun advocating for others in that situation, or had been allowed to explain herself. Instead, she has spiraled into serious mental health problems and relative obscurity, until one of her public conflicts throws her back into the spotlight for a second or two. Through it all, she has continued to make music and it is still pretty good – though her album sales will never reach the peak that they should and would have, if her temper hadn’t torpedoed her career.
I’m sure this is part of her internal struggle too. Her music was a huge part of her life that has been slowly whittled away in the face of her mental afflictions. Sinead has been involved in a number of custody battles that have led to very public meltdowns. Last November she posted a public suicide note, nearly overdosed, and was treated yet again for depression. In her note she blamed and disowned her children and railed against her exes for taking the kids. Sinead’s downward spiral and Bipolar Disorder has been public and brutal – and many mock her for it. The public will never let go of the rabid judgement they have felt for her since she shredded that photo on live television over twenty years ago.
But Bipolar Disorder and mental distress are no laughing matters. Sinead O’Connor obviously needs help. Mental disease is not something to be poked fun at by late night comedians or newspapers. She is in real duress and has been for quite some time. Her antics are manic and yes, some may be for attention – but someone who is that desperate to be heard deserves a listen. O’Connor may not have the influence and the stardom of others we have lost this year, but she is a brilliant artist and someone in the public eye who is literally screaming for help.
I hope that people actually listen to those screams, rather than dismissing her yet again. There’s a lot of talk about mental disease, addiction, and understanding both these days. Here’s another chance to prove that’s not just idle talk and that people are ready and willing to empathize with those who need help. Sinead is one of those people. Treat her kindly.
Sinead, if you’re out there – I hear you. I listen to your music and I hope you make more. Please stay safe.
(EDIT: Delighted to report that Sinead O’Connor has been found safe. Good thing too, because I’m not ready to lose another childhood hero.)