People around the world were shocked to hear the news of the passing of comedic legend, Robin Williams. He enlightened the lives of people with his impeccable wit and comedic genius for decades, while demonstrating undeniable compassion and empathy for his fellow human beings.
Williams’ death has been ruled a suicide, leaving behind his three children and wife. Williams suffered from depression in his later years, and it unfortunately got the best of him. What was so shocking about this particular celebrity death was the fact that Williams seemed to have such an outward zest for life. His death reminded us that sometimes even the most outwardly confident people can be damaged.
This tragic death should put mental health awareness at the forefront of societal issues. Not enough attention is directed towards mental illness, probably because mental illness has a tendency to be depreciated.
A while back there was a comic circulating the internet regarding the common misinterpretation of mental illness. The comic is titled, “helpful advice”, and it depicts a world where physical diseases were treated like mental diseases. The third window of the comic struck a significant cord. It shows a man slumped over the toilet which he appears to be vomiting into with another person behind him exclaiming, “Have you tried … you know … not having the flu?” This implies that it is the ill person’s fault that he feels this way, and simply trying to “not have the flu” will cure him of his ailment. People cannot just stop being depressed, anxious or bipolar. This comic does an excellent job painting an accurate picture of the stigma associated with mental illness, and the grip it can have on people even if it is not visible to the naked eye unlike a physical illness. Along with being depreciated, mental illness can have serious consequences if it conquers the sufferer. In the case of Robin Williams, it led to his untimely suicide.
According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death among Americans in 2011 with someone taking their own life every 13.3 minutes. Along with the threat of suicide, mental illness can also debilitate a person to the point where he/she refuses to leave the house, do anything productive and eventually his/her life becomes a warped, alternate reality.
Everyone will have some trouble with a mental illness at some point in their life. Feelings of anxiety or depression are completely normal under certain circumstances.
People who struggle with mental illness say it’s impossible to describe what they are feeling to someone who has never experienced it before. Although you may not understand when someone describes his/her struggles with mental health to you, just listen and offer support. Do not offer suggestions to fix the problem, just talk it out. If you are personally struggling with a mental illness, remember there is counseling offered at Illinois State, Along with a 24/7 suicide hotline that connects you immediately to a trained mental health worker at 1-800-273-TALK.