By GabbyI doubt I am the only one who can say without much hesitation, that Robin Williams was my favorite comedian. I could watch his movies, routines and appearances and laugh until I cried, even if I had seen them many time before. However, I would always watch him and suspect that what we were seeing was only half of the story. Today we learned of his passing and it is suspected that his death was by his own hand. While we mourn this loss, I feel the moment should not go by without recognizing the root cause of this tragedy.
As someone who has been repeatedly touched by the illness of Depression, I know well, the lack of understanding that people can have about this affliction. I’m not a doctor, nor a mental health professional, but as always, I’ll share with you what I know, and pray that it helps one person. Alternatively, I would also be pleased if it started a healthy debate and/or dialogue among those who read it. The most important thing I want people to remember about Depression, is that it is a true disease, as are all mood disorders, mental illnesses and chemical imbalances. Those who don’t understand might equate Depression with being “sad”, but this is the worst possible term to use. “Sad” is an emotion, it stems from an event occurring that is upsetting or disappointing. Depression needs no event to be triggered. A person with depression likely can’t explain what’s bothering them, nor can an external stimulant cause them to easily cheer up.
Depression also appears in varying degrees and in passing waves. The reason I always watched Robin Williams with a hint of concern, was because his comedy often seemed manic. One could see that the words flowing from his mouth, were often barely keeping up with his brain. This may have represented the extreme high a Manic Depressive person will go through. The brain chemistry being all excited and swelling with good-feeling juices, makes the person appear “happy” and often makes those around them happy as well. What I never saw from Mr. Williams, but always feared, was the other end of the spectrum. The extreme low that often follows the manic high is just as intense, but far less fun.
The treatments for Depression vary from differing strengths of pills to talk therapy, but just like popping an aspirin, these are not necessarily cures. They are not prescribed through a quick and simple diagnosis method, either. There is no pee stick, cotton swab or blood test that can give a doctor a red or blue indicator. Observation by the doctor, patient and sometimes the family, can be required and often the diagnosis process is a long series of trial and error. Most important, the patient has to be a willing participant in this process, and the best way to keep that from happening is to stigmatize those treatments.
And here is the reason you are reading this on a “gun blog”:
Depression does not have to be a debilitating disease and Robin Williams did not have to die. Depression can be treated and managed to the point where patients can live with few or even, no symptoms. But, as I said, people have to be willing to ask for, and receive, the help they need. If we simply label them “mentally ill” and then put them on a list that separates them from the rest of society, we will find ourselves with a bigger problem. Those who need the help will not seek it out and they will, instead, get worse. We may end up lumping together, the murderous sociopaths of the world, with those who brought as much joy as Robin Williams. Considering the outpouring of love over his loss, I doubt any of us would agree to such a mental illness list. Would you?