RIP Robin Williams

My teenage daughter and I sat grieving together tonight over this tragic loss. As she wrote online, “I am beyond heartbroken about Robin Williams’ passing. It goes to show how depression is a potentially fatal medical issue that deserves the same kind of treatment and care as other physical illnesses. Anyone, even a bright, talented, hilarious and joy-spreading person can suffer from it. He was universally loved and created so much brilliance on and off the screen. The world lost a gem of a human being today. ”

So it has. When will people understand? When will doctors, hospitals, policy makers, and all people UNDERSTAND that depression hurts a vital organ and thus can be life-threatening?

Yet what we see all around us are budget cuts leading to closures of mental health facilities, reductions in available services, health care “coverage” that covers less and less, insurance policies that discriminate against those suffering with mental health problems, and a pharmaceutical industry that appears to be dictating the shape and direction of treatment for psychiatric illness.

When will people understand what a sixteen-year-old girl understands so well?

For other responses please see the article Robin Williams’s death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfishthis video response from someone who has experienced deep depression, and the following very important post by Tom Clempson, entitled ROBIN WILLIAMS DID NOT DIE FROM SUICIDE:

Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide…

When people die from cancer, their cause of death can be various horrible things – seizure, stroke, pneumonia – and when someone dies after battling cancer, and people ask “How did they die?”, you never hear anyone say “pulmonary embolism”, the answer is always “cancer”. A pulmonary embolism can be the final cause of death with some cancers, but when a friend of mine died from cancer, he died from cancer. That was it. And when I asked my wife what Robin Williams died from, she, very wisely, replied “Depression.”

The word “suicide” gives many people the impression that “it was his own decision,” or “he chose to die, whereas most people with cancer fight to live.” And, because depression is still such a misunderstood condition, you can hardly blame people for not really understanding. Just a quick search on Twitter will show how many people have little sympathy for those who commit suicide…

But, just as a pulmonary embolism is a fatal symptom of cancer, suicide is a fatal symptom of depression. Depression is an illness, not a choice of lifestyle. You can’t just “cheer up” with depression, just as you can’t choose not to have cancer. When someone commits suicide as a result of depression, they die from depression – an illness that kills millions each year. It is hard to know exactly how many people actually die from depression each year because the figures and statistics only seem to show how many people die from “suicide” each year (and you don’t necessarily have to suffer depression to commit suicide, it’s usually just implied).  But considering that one person commits suicide every 14 minutes in the US alone, we clearly need to do more to battle this illness, and the stigmas that continue to surround it. Perhaps depression might lose some its “it was his own fault” stigma, if we start focusing on the illness, rather than the symptom. Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. He died from depression. It wasn’t his choice to suffer that.

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