We Have To Wake Up and Pay More Attention.

Heath Ledger Did Not Need To Die!     



Heath Ledger was recently on the cover of People Magazine, 4/24/2017; I was both surprised and delighted, for he has been gone from us for 9 years. I needed to write about him just after he died.  

We now know all the details of how Heath died. It was an accident. He took too many prescription pills and just stopped breathing. I am feeling very sad. We were really all robbed of watching this extraordinarily talented young man grow into a fully actualized mature actor. 

I have read that he shared considerably about the stresses he felt in his recent role as the sociopathic Joker in the upcoming " The Dark Night." He talked about this role being an exhausting experience that often he was unable to talk or move after certain days on the set. He told both New York Times reporters and a national television program that he was taking the sleep aid, Ambien, to help with his sleep deprivation. He sometimes couldn´t sleep more than two hours at a time and couldn't turn off his mind from continual thinking. He also was not feeling well, recently in London, according to a fellow actor, Christopher Plummer; supposedly he was suffering from walking pneumonia, before he flew back to New York. The pills the police found in his bedroom were all prescription drugs for anxiety and sleeping: Valium, Zoloft and Ambien. 

I wonder why he told so many people how much he was struggling with feeling so stressed out. Could he have been asking for help in a very subtle way? 

We all have friends and relatives who sometimes are so busy and involved with their business lives that they don´t realize what their bodies are saying to them. I can only imagine that Health´s stress was compromising his immune system. He was sick enough for his fellow London actors to know he had a "bug" that he could't shake. 

I remember the story of the shocking death of Jim Hanson, who created The Muppets. He coughed for so long, continuing to work, that when he finally went to the hospital, it was too late to save him. 

It´s not enough that we just notice anymore; I think it´s time that we really work at being active, conscious, personal ombudsmen for the people we care about in our lives. I have heard a noted speaker, David Wolpe, say that "Paying attention is a moral value." When we really pay sufficient attention to feel the concerns we have, we can give ourselves permission to create "social interventions." Sometimes it´s necessary to ask permission to have certain conversations. For instance, "Could we talk about how you´re feeling?" "I heard that you´ve really been stressed out from that project you´ve been working on; is there any way I can help or do anything for you?" "I want you to know that I care very much about how you´re feeling, and I have seen how hard you´re working." It´s vital to build safe and honest communication in your relationships to listen, to be heard, to be trusted. 

Our worlds are going so fast these days that we are losing our connections with ourselves and with others! We just keep doing more and more, going more and more, rushing more and more without stopping to take quiet, reflective, regrouping time. We´ve stopped saying, "No," when we really want to and need to. I think hearing that Heath had scheduled a massage for himself was certainly an indication he knew he needed some quiet healing time. It was just too late! I read that he had some more pills prescribed in Europe, which means that he probably visited a physician there. I wonder if his doctor-visit included some time to talk about the work stresses he´d been feeling, the insomnia he´d been experiencing and whether or not he needed to postpone his flight back to New York to recover from his walking pneumonia. What if¦? Personally, I wish that he had seen an acupuncturist or another kind of healer in London, who might have advised him to rest for a time before he flew again. This time in Heath´s life was ripe for a social intervention. He could have used a "time out" or time off to unwind, to get his mind and body back in sync. 

First, we all need to practice social interventions personally. We´re so busy with the technological aspects of daily living with our cell phones, our iPads, our computers, that we´ve stopped paying attention often to how we´re feeling. We need to be reminded to just plain stop doing what we´re doing, to eat, to take a nap, to smell the roses, to chill out, to listen to others to really hear what they´re saying to us. 

We might even schedule such times in our calendars! 

Listening can be called a major social intervention, for when we listen, we´re paying attention to another, we´re in the present, and others actually can feel our connecting. And that´s what social interventions are all about connecting!!! Whether we´re teachers, physicians, relatives, friends, parents, service personnel, we need to consciously connect to the people with whom we interact. People are acting out today in such diverse ways to get our attention, to ask for help, whether it´s through drug and alcohol abuse, bizarre dress and behavior, eating dysfunctions, anger, drama, suicide attempts. 

Once we realize that the kind of attention we get and give is the root cause of our feelings and behavior, we can make huge differences in the quality of our personal lives and in all the lives we touch every day. Start by saying hello to the people you interacts with today: the newspaperman, the parking attendant, the checkout people, the doorman, the dog walker, teachers, nurses, old people, and kids. 

          Know that paying and giving appropriate and positive attention can and does save lives! 

By Alice March


People Magazine Cover