We need to fight the stigma of mental illness because people keep dying from it. Most recently, Robin Williams. I was beyond sad to discover that the articles allegedly saying he’d killed himself were not merely a new Internet death hoax, but actual truth. Robin Williams took his own life because of depression.
It hits close to home. Not only was he a remarkable actor that brought so much laughter through his craft, but he was a comrade in the trenches of depression. He was an advocate against the stigma. He taught us that people with mental illnesses are many things, not just the mental illness. You never would have guessed how bad his troubles were, and neither could his family until it became too much for him.
This hits close to home because it’s something that most of us deal with daily…the shame baring, the secret keeping, the shrugging of shoulders when we say we are okay, even when we’re not. Despite how far we’ve come with our quest to break the stigma, we have not yet broken it, and there are still enormous levels of shame and embarrassment when it comes to discussing mental illness and seeking help.
Part of it’s the medical field. Often, trying to get treatment is embarrassing. You’re made to feel like it isn’t common and that you’re weak. The wait time to see a psychologist is extremely long…I’ve been waiting for one since 2012. Health coverage does not cover psychologists, or at least not most of them.
A greater part of it is the eyeroll of society. It’s almost like they’re thinking, “Oh, another depressed person? Shocking. We all have problems.”.
I’ve had to tell myself every day that I am not alone, that depression is lying to me when it says I am, that not everyone is rolling their eyes at me. Sure, some people are…but most are not (and screw the ones that are; they’re the reason this stigma still exists).
I am devasated for Robin Williams’ family and friends, but I am also hoping his death…unexpected in the eyes of so many of his fans…pushes the vast majority of society that didn’t see the stigma into thinking about it, into joining the cause to break it. I’m hoping people will realize that you can smile, you can be a comedian or a doctor, a teacher, or anything at all and still suffer greatly from depression.
It is the silent killer. We need to change that, we need to unsilence it, we need to stop it from taking our friends and loved ones.