Benjamin Keough died of an apparent suicide on July 12, 2020, at Calabasas, California. He was 27 years old.
Son of Lisa Marie Presley, a Scientologist, there has been understandable curiosity about what influence, if any, the cult may have had on this tragic event.
Sadly the answer to this will probably never be known. Speculation on his personal struggle is useless and intrusive at this time. Scientologist or not, Lisa Marie Presley is a grieving mother and there is no kindness or compassion in attempting to dissect her son’s motivations.
While Keough’s individual struggles and demons cannot be known with any certainty, the situation does create questions for Never Ins that can be addressed in general.
Scientology’s unreasoning hatred for psychiatry is well known. Their scorn for and dismissal of mental illness equates to psychological bigotry.
Lumping “insanity” (a blanket term used by Hubbard to cover a multitude of mental health symptoms) in with war and crime as one of the three evils of the world needing to be cleared shows succinctly and without doubt exactly their beliefs on the subject.
The CCHR’s ultimate raison d’etre is the complete and total annihilation of psychiatry which would result in millions of people lost to the life altering destruction their conditions create with no hope of relief. Scientology’s “Cleared Planet” would herald a return to the days of Bedlam, it would reverse what progress has been made renewing the shame and stigma that has only in recent years begun to diminish.
There is no room for, no tolerance for, mental illness in the superior perfection of the most ethical religion on the planet. COS preaches all inclusiveness, tolerance and demands Man’s Human Rights be protected…just not for those suffering from chemical imbalances of the brain over which they have no control.
Scientology’s very definition of what clearing the planet IS demonstrates without doubt how they view psychological conditions.
“It means that Scientologists want to rid the planet of insanity, war and crime, and in its place create a civilization in which sanity and peace exist. In order to do this, they must help individuals become free of their own individual aberrations and insanities and, hence, regain their inherent goodness.“ (Emphasis added)
Depression and other mental illnesses are not individual aberrations. According to Mirriam-Webster an aberration is “the fact or an instance of deviating or being aberrant especially from a moral standard or normal state; something or someone regarded as atypical and therefore able to be ignored or discounted”.
Important to note that in the cult’s definition is the unsubtle understanding that only those without the taint of mental illness are inherently good. Only by removing this abnormality can one regain their inherent goodness which they lost by being less than healthy.
A former Scientologist of many years explained the cult’s attitude towards depression; “Scientology does not believe in depression and should you say the word, they will assign another source to it and reject that as a diagnosis. They never let you actually deal with the depression, and if you talk to your Scientology friends and family, you are just directed to continue your Scientology progress. They never let you deal with it, and they shame you for even saying the word , depression. Your Scientology parents don’t help you but rather send you into Scientology to just continue there and say ‘you are not depressed. You just need to continue up the bridge’.
Eventually as you get to the upper levels. They tell you, you have a spirit in your body that is depressed or you have a spirit that is being breast cancer. And all you have to do is find that spirit (called a body Thetan (Thetan stands for spirit) and audit it out. And the cancer, the depression, the one who wants to Kill himself or herself , the autistic spirit will blow (leave) and get another body, leaving you ‘cured'”
Which brings us to Scientology’s OT V level and brings up a serious question about practicing medicine with a license.
Beginning with OT V and progressing on through OT VII, Scientologists believe that they are actively working towards the ability to cure cancer or mental illness. Obviously this is an impossible and unattainable goal and this teaching is yet one more reason why the government needs to intervene.
In Dianetics, part of Scientology’s sacred scripture and known as Book One, L. Ron Hubbard wrote, “Dianetics offers a therapeutic technique with which we can treat any and all inorganic mental and organic psychosomatic ills, with assurance of complete cure in unselected cases. It produces a mental stability in the ‘cleared’ patient which is far superior to the current norm. (Hubbard, 1950a, p. 85)”
For an organization that claims to believe mental illness is not real, there is a great deal of time and attention paid to denigrating and attacking it. Ridiculous that this cult claims to have a cure for something that doesn’t truly exist.
Any doubt about Scientology’s ability to handle any form of mental illness is completely dispelled forever by reviewing Lisa McPherson‘s terrible end.
McPherson’s death, though not by suicide, is by no means the only tragedy.
Michael Friedlich, who in September 2006 at the age of 18 committed suicide. His mother, a Scientologist, was advised to get her son a psychiatric evaluation for what has been described as “severe, chronic depression” but it never happened. She was noted saying that her son’s suicide was “OK” because he “was obviously indwelt by an undesirable that the faith was unable to cleanse.”
Information on a few more of the many Scientology suicides can be found here.
What can be said for certain is that anyone suffering from depression or other serious mental illness is already fighting an uphill battle. Adding the intolerance of Scientology to the equation can do nothing but make the situation far, far worse than it would be without them.
If you are struggling with depression and need help, please call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you are trapped within Scientology, need help escaping and are afraid you are alone, please contact The Aftermath Foundation who will be there to support and protect you. For more information click here.