“As one of my patients told me, ‘If I could give up my right arm–literally, have it amputated–to escape the pain of depression forever, I would take that deal in a heartbeat.'”
–Stephen Ilardi, Ph.D., in The Depression Cure
Robin Williams was such a national treasure, who gave so many people around the world so much joy and pleasure (including U.S. troops and troubled vets), that maybe some of the ripple effects of his tragic end will be positive effects:
— Maybe it will heighten awareness once and for all about the severity of mental-health issues including severe depression and addiction too.
— Maybe such awareness will go a long and much-needed way in removing the lingering stigmas associated with depression and related issues. As enlightened as we are in these times about physical illnesses and diseases, many people are still stuck in attitudes and beliefs about one step removed from the Dark Ages when it comes to mental and emotional issues.
— Maybe the national conversation about Robin’s tragedy will include discussion and a much-needed look at what we’re going to do as a nation about the suicide rate among veterans–22 vets kill themselves every day in America.
(Let that sink in–our veterans are killing themselves in astounding numbers in a military-related epidemic that nobody really wants to address.)
— Maybe the national conversation will include some talk about how to deal with all the addicts and mentally-ill people without homes on our streets.
Maybe we’ll stop criminalizing homelessness with draconian city ordinances and deal with the undertows (i.e., mental illness, addiction, etc.).
— Maybe we’ll drop some of the judgmentalism, biases and ignorance that are heaped upon people with mental-health issues, since it’s judgmentalism and bias and ignorance that aggravate the problems and deter people who desperately need help from seeking the help.
Mentally ill, suicidal and addicted people live in additional darkness of shame and even lower self-esteem that people with heart disease and diabetes and physical illnesses don’t have to cope with.
— We can only hope that the horror of such a gifted and talented icon’s suicide will jolt us into facing realities that we recoil from and try so hard to ignore, so that we can bring such realities out in the open, examine them, discuss them and figure out ways to deal them.
Maybe this will be just the wake-up call we have always so desperately needed as a nation when it comes to mental illness.
But then again, considering our short little span of national attention–driven by the latest hype in the latest news cycle–we’re a nation that’s not very good at dealing with unpleasantries for long.