A lot has been written about the death of Robin Williams this week. He couldn't overcome his struggle with depression and ultimately ended his life. The public reaction has ranged from sadness and grief to anger over his so called "selfish act". Why has his death it most of us so hard? Maybe it's because he always seemed so happy and full of life, and he provided us with so much entertainment through his many memorable roles. Maybe it's because Hollywood celebrities don't seem like "real" people who should have "real" problems, like addiction and depression...that's what we all experience, not "them". If a wealthy celebrity can't get the help they need to successfully treat their mental health issues, what does that mean for the rest of us?
The death of Robin Williams impacts all of us for different reasons, but I think most of us would agree that it is tragic because we know that the right treatment works and recovery is possible. We could spend the rest of our lives wondering "what if" - what if he had received treatment earlier, what if he had tried a different medication, what if he had been more successful with overcoming his addiction? We will never know the answers to those questions, unfortunately. But we can take this terrible tragedy and find the useful.
1. Depression is the most common mental illnesses with more than 16 million adults 18 and older in the US experiencing depression in the last year.
2. Depression is a chronic condition that can impact anyone at any age, and the symptoms are as different as the people who experience it.
3. There is not only treatment that will work for everyone and sometimes it takes months or years to figure out what works.
4. The early detection of mental illness, and the right treatment, can ensure that people with mental illness can recover and live a full and complete life. Everyone should have access to help, regardless of their ability to pay for medications and treatment.
My own family has been impacted by suicide with the death of my aunt a few years ago. She, like Williams, was being treated but unfortunately that treatment was not enough for her to overcome her despair. It's too late for people like my aunt and Robin Williams, but it's not too late for others in our lives that are living with this disease and may not be able to reach out for help. It's our responsibility to love and support those in our lives who have mental illness.
From the Robin Williams' movie "Jack": "Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when the shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day...make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did."
Robin Williams was a shooting star who left our universe too soon. Let us take his death and think about how it can propel us to make our lives, and the lives of others, spectacular.
If you are experiencing feelings of overwhelming sadness or have thoughts of suicide, please reach out to someone. There is help - call
1-800-273 TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information