6,778 words on Tumblr, to an anonymous fan who expressed interest in suicide

The story began last week, when Gethard received a question from a fan via the microblogging service Tumblr. As an author and a comedian—he is a member of the sterling comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade and has his own show on New York’s public access television—Gethard gets fan queries all the time. But this one was different.

“I know you’ve talked about bout depression and anxiety issues before,” wrote Anonymous, “and if you don’t answer this cause it’s a complete downer I understand but I’m curious if you ever had suicidal thoughts. I admire you and your show and have just been in a really bad place lately. I used to see your show as the last thing I had to look forward to but I haven’t even been back for months and can’t even bring myself out the door to get there without panicking. I’d appreciate any advice really.”

What to do with a plea like this? Anonymous, after all, could just as easily be a merry prankster as a real fan in distress. And moreover Tumblr, used mainly to share funny photos or quick quips, is hardly the platform for nuanced advice on mental health, nor are comedians the ones best suited to dispense such advice. Gethard could have ignored his digital Werther, or he could have adhered to the sensibilities of the Internet and posted a funny photo or a bit of pithy pep. He did neither.

“I want you to know I saw your message about thirty seconds ago and I’m already writing this,” Gethard wrote.

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FJP: Filed under: In which the internet can be a place for hope, action and inspiration.

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