“I used to think that the worst thing was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone” – Robin Williams
It is such an unpleasant feeling to wake up to the unexpected news of yet another legendary man found dead in his home. Robin Williams, one of my all time favorite comedians and actors who was loved and adored by many, took his life yesterday and it truly breaks my heart. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and confusion his family is currently facing. However I am at least thankful that they have the comfort of the rest of the world both mourning and celebrating his life with them. But what I don’t understand is why it has to take a celebrity’s suicide to bring awareness and attention to the prevalence of depression. Right now, Robin William’s death is a hot topic for news, magazines and social media. Everyone wants to know the details of his death – why would such a loved and talented person want to leave the world so early, how is his family coping, what do other celebrities have to say? But the most important thing that should be taken from this “hot topic” is that depression is a silent and deadly killer. Robin William’s is not the only man who decided to commit suicide yesterday. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, approximately 30,000 people commit suicide each year in the United States. This means that multiple people commit suicide every single day – yet often, we don’t hear of these tragedies.
Depression is not an emotion or a feeling, but a disease of the mind. If you have never suffered from depression, it can be hard to understand the depths of the disease. It causes those affected to feel hopeless, sad, and to believe that things will never get better. Unforuntately, depression affects every 1 in 10 Americans.Yet why is it that people are much better and more likely to come together and raise awareness for physical illnesses of mental illnesses? Take breast cancer for example. I constantly hear of upcoming breast cancer fundraising events such as 5ks and walks. Breast cancer, along with many other physical diseases, has a very widespread awareness unlike depression.
Depression, on the other hand, seriously lacks awareness. It is a disease that isn’t glamorized in the slightest, and because of this those who suffer from it usually don’t want to openly admit it or post about it. There is a huge negative stigma surrounding depression causing those who suffer from it to feel ashamed. If someone suffers from depression, it doesn’t mean that they are “broken” or any less worthy of love than any other person. If someone suffers from depression, it doesn’t mean that they are weak in the mind. Depression is a chemical imbalance, a lack of serotonin in the brain. It is a sad, isolating disease that is way too often overlooked. This needs to change.
However, there is hope. With therapy and/or medication, depression can be managed and controlled. We need to remember that a mental illness does not define who we are, just as a physical illness does not define who we are. The more people open up about their own experiences with mental illness, the more likely others will too. The only reason I began blogging about my own experiences with mental illness is because I was inspired by a girl who did the same. I always thought this girl seemed so happy, so when I read her blog post I remember thinking to myself, “well if she can admit to this and get a good response and have others look up to her even more than they did before, then so can I”.
There are so many great foundations out there working to prevent suicide and raise awareness of mental illnesses. One of these foundations in particular I had the pleasure of interning for over the summer. The Jed Foundation was founded by the Satow family who lost their son Jed to suicide. It is such a great organization that is working to make a difference in the world of mental illness and I think foundations like them deserve more recognition and support. If you were upset about the passing of the unbelievable Robin William’s, then consider taking a minute to donate to a suicide prevention and mental illness foundation. There are millions of them out there that need our support. We need to fight back against suicide and educate ourselves about the signs and symptoms of mental illness in order to be able to recognize it in others, and even yourself. Through more support, awareness and acceptance, maybe — just maybe — we can start to erase the negative stigma and help prevent a suicide.