The world is grieving the loss of one of our favorite comedic and dramatic geniuses, Robin Williams, and the conversation begins about mental illness, depression, and suicide.
The Facts As We Know It: The news arrived about 3:30PM PST that the actor had died due to suspected suicide. CNN reported that according to the Marin County Sheriff’s office, Williams was pronounced dead at 12:02pm PST of suspected suicide due to asphyxia. The last post on his official site was a week ago. His last tweet was July 31, 2014, wishing happy birthday to Zelda Rae Williams, his daughter with Marsha Garces.
What We Feel: We’ve lost a best friend, one we’ve met through television, film, recordings, and comedy concert halls. Like many highly visible celebrities, we think we know them, then this happens, and we question what we knew, and what we wished we knew.
From time to time, Williams was open about his battles with drugs, alcohol, and depression. Some of my favorite quotes from Robin Williams include commentary on mental health as well as some great lines on the topic from his films.
- “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
- “Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs.”
- “Freud: If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.”
- “Reality: What a concept!”
- “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone.”
- “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”
- “What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.”
- “I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be.”
The next few months will be filled with conversations, positive and negative, as the facts, and rumors, flood the media waves about depression, mental illness, and suicide. We will celebrate the artist and the genius, but we will also have to face the hard questions.
Like many of you, my life has been touched closely by depression, personally and through family and friends. It comes in many shapes and forms, and rarely does it lead to extreme action, but it can. It is a sly form of mental illness, sneaking in when you least expect it, catching you off guard (“Me? I’m not depressed!”), or be a burden we live with every day, making the decision to keep one foot in front of the other on our journey through life day by day.
Depression isn’t about being miserable, sad, angry, or overemotional. You may never see depression in anyone around you as they may be good at hiding it. Or they have gotten so good at acting like nothing is wrong, they fool even themselves. It catches up with you in spite of your acting.
Robin Williams loved being a disruptive force in entertainment, taking on roles no one else would, or pushing the envelope in his performances, living on the edge, personally and professionally. He was a force of nature. You couldn’t help but feel him leap through the screen into your living room with his seemingly boundless energy.
He was brave. He worked tirelessly for Comic Relief efforts with long-time friends, Whoopi Golderg and Billy Crystal. Williams worked with Ryan White and the youngster’s determination to put a human face on AIDS when everyone else turned away. Williams was also an avid bicyclist, riding 100 miles a week, often raising money for good causes in the process.
In his honor, I’d like to help you start this conversation on depression and mental illness on your own blogs by helping you find some amazing blogs and bloggers who’ve been covering this subject for a while, many with a first-hand perspective on the subject.
Bloggers Blogging About Depression and Mental Illness
The following are blogs and bloggers covering depression, mental illness, and suicide. These are not so much recommendations as they are for self-discovery. Whether seeking information, connection, or help, hopefully one of these people will be a source of advice and help. Be warned that some of these sites are quite frank in language and topics about their struggles with mental health, telling it like it really is.
Recover Life from Depression – Storied Mind: John Folk-Williams blogs about his recovery from depression after a lifelong battle since childhood. He is also the author of a book on surviving depression for those in relationships, and “A Mind for Life,” about how to recover.
A Splintered Mind – Douglas Cootey: Cootey blogs about living with and overcoming ADHD and depression “with lots of humor and attitude.” He is currently working on a book called “Overcoming Suicide.” His popular posts include “What To Expect When You Call a Suicide Prevention Hotline” and “11 Ways To Embarrass Yourself. Just Add ADHD.“
My Medicated Cartoon Life: Described in the tagline as “The ramblings of a bitter animator, living and dealing with depression on Planet Doom,” the author’s posts are released randomly and are great public debates about depression through artwork and stories.
The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive: Navigating the Labyrinth of NHS Mental Health Services: From the UK, Seaneen shares her stories of “rapid cycling with psychotic features” as she blogs about alcoholism and life with bipolar.
Lawyers With Depression: Being unusually open and public about his battle with depression, lawyer Dan shares his insights on depression and mental health to help others in the legal field understand they are not alone. It is the first of its kind in the United States, and has opened up discussions among many professionals on the subject of depression.
Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I’m like 25: The title pretty much sums up this blog by Micahel Kimber, a 26 year old journalist who suffered “a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009.” He says his site is “about falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond Jew.”
If You’re Going Through Hell Keep Going: A professional writer, the blogger shares her struggles with depression and bipolar and struggling with life from day to day with her highly personal journals filled with angst and humor.
Alistair McHarg | where ridiculous meets sublime: Alistair McHarg is the author of “Invisible Driving,” a memoir of being bipolar, two novels, and poetry. He is a humorist tackling the tough discussions on mental health.
My Postpartum Voice: Blogger Lauren Hale was one of millions of women suffering from postpartum depression, as well as battling with OCD and PTSD. This mother shares her experiences with lively discussions and stories to help you know you aren’t alone.
Daisies and Bruises – The Art of Living with Depression: Erin Schulthies blogs about living with severe depression, claiming that “since death was no longer an option, she had to find a way to life. This is it.”
Hyperbole and a Half: While not updated in a while, Allie blogs her cartoons and artwork that include commentary on mental health and depression. She also wrote a book with the same title as her blog.
Bipolar and Me: Exactly what it says, this personal journal shares the author’s insights into her life lived bipolar.
Depression Marathon: Etta shares her personal story and battle with severe and chronic depression, and her relapses with mental illness. Through her eyes, she takes the reader through every method and therapy she’s tried to cope with this ongoing struggle to inspire others to keep going. She explains that she is “in the process of re-creating a better me” as she has become grateful for the “person I’ve become and the opportunities I’ve seized because of it.”
1 Boring Old Man: The author, a retired psychiatrist, writers about his industry and the truth about clinical trials and the commercialism of psychiatry and the business of mental health, and its deceptive nature for the patient as well as the doctor.
Pick the Brain: Since 2008, Erin Falconer’s multiple contributor site deals with a wide range of self-improvement topics, with a healthy dose of topics on mental health and depression.
Coping with Depression Blog: Erin Schulthies of Daisies and Bruises teamed up with Jennifer Tazzi, a fellow depression survivor, to blog on this powerful and informational site offering tools, tips, and information those coping with depression need to know. This is part of the HealthyPlace site.
The Bloggess: Jenny Lawson tackles the world through her twisted sardonic wit and humor on her blog and through her book, “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.” While not specifically about depression, it tackles the dark side of life with great humor and candor.
The Trouble With Spikol| Philadelphia Weekly: While not specifically a separate blog, Liz Spikol’s column tackles schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD, PTSD, and SAD from an insider’s perspective.
Dr. Deb: A psychologist and psychoanalyst specializing in traumatic experiences and depression, Dr. Deb explores mental health in the United States in an innovative way. Author of “Living with Depression” and “Depression and Your Child,” she offers educational information, advice, and tools for coping with depression.
Information on Mental Health Issues
I have only one bit of advice if you think you or someone else has a mental health issue, especially depression.
You are not alone. There is help. Everywhere. Get it.
Nine months ago, a friend of mine’s medications were switched due to changes in new Medicare policies. A retired professional with a solid reputation and career behind him, he’d battled depression his whole life. The changes in the medication brought the “demons” back. In and out of therapy for months, many days found him saying he couldn’t cope any more. Today at lunch he announced to our little group of steadfast friends that he was really glad to be here. We applauded.
He wasn’t just glad to be at lunch. He wasn’t glad to be here with us. He was glad to have made it out of the depression and be here, as in life, with us, in this moment, and here, as himself. It was a moment worthy of a standing ovation.
There is help everywhere. Personal help and professional help. There are new medications, medical treatments, therapies, incredible improvements in science that brought our friend back to us, and can help you if you need it.
There is no shame in this. None. We are all on this planet to help each other, no matter how good or bad it gets.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health an estimated 17 million adult Americans suffer from depression during any one year period – not in their life, but during a single year. Two our of three students, especially college-age students, are reported to suffer from depression and never get the help they need.
In an interview on Prevention Magazine, comedian Rob Delaney spoke openly about dealing with alcoholism and depression, including being candid about his thoughts of suicide.
I thought “I definitely want to kill myself and I do believe that I deserve to die, but maybe—MAYBE—that’s ‘insane’ or perhaps it’s what my therapist and family and friends are calling ‘clinical depression’ and I should listen to them—even if it’s for a brief while—and NOT kill myself.” I stepped out of myself and tried to ask, “What if I were somebody else, observing me? Would I tell me to kill myself? Probably not, so why not entertain that possibility?”
I know this may sound complicated, but it was an ego reducing exercise that helped me realize that I wasn’t unique. I wasn’t uniquely bad or good. I was a person whose mind was functioning in an aberrant manner and needed help. Help that others before me had received and benefited from. So in a way I was sort of doing an experiment in compassion with myself as the laboratory.
To combat depression, you must get help. Asking for help is strong because it leads directly to staying alive, which is our goal. Not asking for help is as fear-based a decision as a human being can make and can lead you swiftly in a bad direction. It’s not exaggerating to say that path can end in death. Depression kills people and puts them in the same cemetery car accidents and heart attacks put others in. And I submit we’re part of a community here on earth and if you think you know when you “should” die, you’re as wrong as you’ll ever be about anything. That would be some powerful ego right there, and ego, while necessary, must be aggressively re-calibrated when treating depression.
So get help. And that means walking into an emergency room if necessary. Ideally you’ll catch it before you get to that point, but don’t be embarrassed if it comes to that. Wouldn’t you rather retell that anecdote in five years when your life is totally different and better, than have a loved one putting flowers on your grave in five years, if they even visit because of how you tore their life to shreds?
If you would like more information, help, and to find an online community of others dealing with this, here are some resources.
- National Institute of Mental Health (USA) – What is Depression
- Time To Change | let’s end mental health discrimination (UK)
- Postpartum Progress – The Best Help & Hope For Moms With Postpartum Depression And Anxiety
- Web MD – Depression Center: Symptoms, Causes, Medications, and Therapies
- CDC – Treatment Works: Get Help for Depression and Anxiety
- Teen Depression: A Guide for Teenagers – HelpGuide
- Peer Support – Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Depression’s Evolutionary Roots – Scientific American
- Depression’s Upside – NYTimes.com
- Support Groups | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA
- Going public with depression by Kate Kinsman of CNN.com
- The Science and History of Treating Depression – NYTimes.com
- Depression: Supporting a family member or friend – Mayo Clinic
- Treating depression with electrodes inside the brain – CNN.com
- Comedian Rob Delaney On Depression – Prevention.com
- Depression Chat & Depression Help Online – 7 Cups of Tea
- 9 Ways to Take Care of Yourself When You Have Depression | World of Psychology
- How To Help Yourself Get Through Depression on a Day-To-Day Basis
- How to Heal from Depression – Oprah
The greatest thank you I can get from this post is to help one person find the help they need to get their own standing ovation.
I leave you with this punchline by Robin Williams.
Death is nature’s way of saying, ‘your table is ready.’