Mental Illness: Time to Remove The Stigma

Robin William’s death by suicide is just another sign that we need to address mental illness. Luckily more celebrities are stepping up and speaking out about mental health, including Meredith Baxter on substance abuse, LaDonna Gatlin on attempted suicide, John Larroquette on addiction, Susan Ford Bales on substance abuse and author Terri Cheney on Bipolar Disorder to name a few.

The time has come for our society to realize that we have an epidemic.  There are more people than ever suffering from mental illness and the National Institute of Mental Health says that suicide now kills twice as many people as homicides.  More people need to realize that depression is an illness and in many cases can be life-threatening.  The death of the beloved comedian, Robin Williams, is just another sign that we need to address mental health issues, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addiction and suicide.  People who suffer from these illnesses have not felt comfortable talking about them, and insurance companies do not always cover the expense.  Actress Meredith Baxter who has her own story of addiction, said, “It is only now, reading about his struggle with addiction and depression, that I can even begin to appreciate the desperation he might have been going through.  I have experience with addiction and can understand some of that.  But I know that those who haven’t dealt with depression cannot understand it.  It is dark, desperate, lonely, complex and very much misunderstood.  I urge anyone dealing with it to seek help immediately.  It it’s in your family, get information so that you might become an instrument of comfort and support.” Hollywood lawyer and author, Terri Cheney, who suffers from Bipolar disorder and addresses groups across the country about mental health, remarked, “Robin Williams helped so many people in his lifetime.  He can help so many more if we use his death as an opening for discussion about the virulent demons of suicide and depression.  People keep asking why would Robin Williams kill himself?  He had everything to live for.  But When you’re suicidal, there is no “why”.  There’s only the desire to stop the pain.  Nothing else matters.  That’s why we have to get to depression early, before it becomes more powerful than reason – or even laughter.”

If you, or a family member, suffers from a mental illness, there are places to go for help.  There is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), a toll-free number at NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness – (800) 950- 6264 (NAMI). There are also plenty of local NAMI websites for information.  Don’t suffer in silence because there is help, and one of the first steps is to talk about it and raise awareness.