Within the past few days, the world lost one of the most talented actor/comedians to ever grace the planet. Robin Williams was found dead from an apparent suicide. He had been struggling with substance abuse and depression and it took him to the darkest of places where he just wanted to pain to end. My heart aches for him and what he was going through and also for his family that is left behind.
Robin Williams had the ability to make us all laugh and also cry. How many of us took "refuge" from the storms of life all around us by watching him in "Mork and Mindy", "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Night at the Museum" or one of the many other movies or shows he was in? From what I am reading online, it seems like he was always there for his friends, family, our troops, and for children were facing hardships and needed some laughter and fun in their lives. This incredible man gave the world the gift of laughter, all the while masking the terrible pain that he was feeling inside.
Even in his death though, he continues to give us yet another gift...the gift of awareness of depression and sometimes the substance abuse that may go along with it that is used to try and dull the pain. So many people, ones that most would never suspect of struggling with depression, are coming out and sharing their story of their own struggles with this debilitating mental health issue. For so long it has been considered shameful to either suffer from it or have a family member that does. It is an illness, just like any other illness, be it cancer, lupus, diabetes, and it should not be something that we whisper about, or blame the person for having it. I personally believe that many lives could have been saved if the stigma and shame attached to depression had not been placed there by society as a whole.
I'm willing to bet that every single one of us knows at least one person that suffers from depression...but we may not even realize it. Sometimes, people with the biggest smiles and the most infectious laughter, are hiding behind that mask hoping that you do not see the deep pain they are in. They have learned to mask the pain for many reasons; shame, fear,and expectations of others are the ones that immediately come to mind. All the while, they are living with this dark secret that keeps pulling them down further and further. Sadly, some of these people will never get the help that they need to help them climb out of that deep and dark hole. And some, like Robin Williams, tragically see no other way to stop the pain but through suicide.
I hope that we, as friends, coworkers, family members, and society, will help get rid of the stigma attached to depression and help those that are struggling with this disease get the help they need and deserve. So please be there for others. Be kind, be supportive and help them, or even yourself, know that it is ok to ask for and seek help and that there are many people who do care.