Mental Illness doesn’t discriminate: The death of Robin Williams
The recent death of Robin Williams is a horrible loss. For his family, his friends, his fans, truly, the whole world. Finding out it was a suicide saddened me, but knowing of his history with addiction, depression, and other issues, it didn’t shock me. “But why? Why would a man so loved and adored who had so much going for him be driven to suicide?” Honestly, that’s probably the worst part. A man idolized and revered, who even sought help, still was ultimately consumed by a hurt that most people can’t even fathom. That’s the kicker: mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, et all don’t care who you are, how much you make, how much people care about you. It has the power to overtake and ruin the best of humankind.
Mental illness is a tricky thing. And even while seeing a therapist, taking medication, being surrounded by happy thoughts and loving people, it’s a never-ending struggle. During my high school and college years I had been flagged for bipolar, depression, general mood disorders. My manic phases, days of sleepless nights and boundless energy, with an underlying tiredness that worried my father and resulted in me sleeping for 13 hours straight when I finally came down. My lows, weeks of wanting to do nothing but sleep and eat. I barely showed up to class, doing so in a zombie-like fashion. I’d wake up, try to fill a void with food, and be back to bed within a couple hours. I don’t even have it all that bad as far as symptoms go, and I was pretty stable with meeting with a campus therapist once a week that even now my current doctor doesn’t want to put me on medication if a therapy session here and there helps. Some people don’t have cases as mild as mine, and aren’t even able to comprehend that they should seek health, much less be able to get it.
When a person is so downtrodden that drugs and alcohol are the only way to make the pain go away, even though their life seems so joyous, it’s hard to understand. With Robin, we will never know the depth of what he was feeling, and how he came to the rationale that ending it all was better than going on. I can’t even imagine what his wife is going through. If her thoughts are “If only I had checked up on him before I left” and other such hindsights. “It was wrong, what he did. He should have sought help.” That’s a statement I’ve heard from more than one person in the aftermath. He did. Many times, it seems. When even help isn’t enough to keep someone going though… What can we do? No one will ever be able to justify what he did. The best we can do is put more effort, more empathy, more love and caring, into preventing it in those who are far less world beloved. Because even one life saved from a suicide means the world to those that care about them. Suicide may be an answer, but it should never be the answer. And we as a people should make it so.
I wish more people could get the help they so desperately need. My experiences in both rural poverty-stricken towns and densely populated urban ghettos has made me realize that mental illness isn’t even seen as a real issue for those without the ability to pay for treatment. “Oh, you’re sad all the time and don’t wanna do anything? Sounds like a luxury” was the general attitude in both places towards a “first world problem”. And that’s a shame. People should be able to come to terms with that they need help, and they should be able to get it, regardless of income, stature, what have you. They shouldn’t be stigmatized for it. Sometimes you just hurt. You don’t know why, but you do. Mental illnesses don’t necessarily need a trigger to happen. Something as unaffected by outside sources as chemical imbalances can cause such issues. But so long as the mass population treats these problems as “rich folk issues” rather than the serious health threats they are, you’re not going to see a lot of therapists in poor areas of the country. And a lot of people who realize they need help and are trying to seek it aren’t left with many options. I wish access to mental health services were more widely spread. I wish they were crazy expensive sometimes. It’s not a problem for those with money only. The care shouldn’t be either.
If it’s any consolation, my inbox is always open if you need anything. Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of suicide hotlines worldwide. If you’re a high school student, please reach out to your school counselors. They might be able to help you get more help than they can offer you themselves. If you’re a college student, most colleges (even my tiny one in Southern Ohio) have several counselors on staff to help you. A lot of colleges also have mental health screenings they can run. Hopefully it helps, even if it’s just a little bit.