The untimely death of Robin Williams, iconic actor and comedian, has shaken many of us. That someone with such obvious talents, appreciated by millions, could feel so lost, so in pain, and so beyond help that he would take his own life may be hard to understand. But depression is not logical, it isn’t a choice, it is a disease just like cancer, lupus, and heart disease. It is not just being in a funk and needing to pull yourself out of it – depression is an insidious, invisible, and a potentially life-threatening disease with biological and psychological basis. And while poverty and lack of access to healthcare exacerbate depression, depression knows no boundaries regarding socio-economic class, gender, race or age.
Did you know that one in ten Americans suffers from depression? Or that suicide claims close to 40,000 Americans each year? Or that a vast majority of those who will die are suffering with depression (which can often be managed with the appropriate help)?
Whether you were part of the Mork and Mindy or Mrs. Doubtfire generations, Dead Poets’ Society or Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams is an integral part of our Western youth. Always open about his own struggles with mental illness and addiction, neither Williams’s transparency regarding his struggles, nor his ability to laugh could not prevent the disease, but it can remind us today to recommit to our own mental health, to destroying the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental illnesses, and to reaching out when we see another in pain and seeking treatment to manage the disease.
Someone you love is dealing with mental illness today, it impacts one in four Americans. You don’t need to be in crisis to consider or seek mental health support, make mental health part of your regular check up. Check in with your primary care physician.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Forces recommends that children age 12 and older and adults be regularly screened for depression.
In Tucson, if you or someone you care for is in crisis contact SAMHC Mobile teams are available 24/7 to respond to crises in the community and can be accessed by calling (520) 622-6000. SAMHC works closely and collaboratively with the public behavioral health system.