Thursday, 14 August 2014

Robin Williams & Mental Health

I write this at 8pm on Tuesday evening today I was going to post the results of my juice detox but this just seemed more pressing. At 5am this morning I was woken by my phone and as is habit I checked facebook only to see my Dad had posted "RIP Robin Williams" What? Surely not? But the more I scrolled through and after a quick check of BBC news it was confirmed. Robin Williams had died of a suspected suicide.

Source: BBC

I felt genuinely disturbed. I try not to get too effected by the death of a celebrity, no more than I would a "normal" person. But something about this situation was just particularly devastating for the world to lose such a talented, funny man. I am not a film buff but I loved Aladdin, Mrs Doubtfire and Night at the Museum. 

But, what really touched me was the harrowing words of his widow, Susan Schneider: 

"As he is remembered, it is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions"

I intentionally haven't check the #RobinWilliams hashtag on twitter for fear of what I might read in my experience people can be so cruel when hidden behind a screen even following a death. If his devastated widow can be so gracious at this time then no one else has any right to judge. 

Suicide is so often described as a selfish act. But I don't believe it is. For most it is a final, desperate act. The moment when the "black dog" or whatever nickname we'd like to give depression just becomes enveloping and all encompassing. When the mind can no longer be compassionate for their loved ones, even for a second. The moment when there is nothing to do but give up. 

The problem is we don't talk about mental health enough. I'm guilty of that I've spoken of my depression perhaps three times maximum in the three and a half years I've been blogging because I'm scared people will accuse me of being dramatic or self pitying. But that's not the case. If we don't talk about it, if we hide away from it. Then how can we seek the help so needed? How can we battle through the dark waves when noone knows how much we're struggling? 

I was diagnosed just before my fifteenth birthday although I think it was a long time coming. Again, please don't confuse teenage angst with depression or assume it's an illness that only affects adults. Since then I have worked through set backs and medication, counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy, issues of self harm and self hatred, rage and disappointment. I have had people who have stood by me and understood, challenged me when I've needed challenging and come alongside me at my lowest.  On the flip side, I have had people make horrendous public jokes on twitter about it. I am blessed that I'm in a position right now where I have an incredible support network and I'm able to recognise the signs.

This is not to say Robin Williams didn't, no one can know his final thoughts or reasoning. All I know is that whatever he was going through, we can learn from. Speak up, speak out. And if it's not you that is suffering, please support those that can in the best way you can. 

Mental illness is exactly that, an illness and it needs the proper treatment, research and in response. 

Rest in Peace Robin Williams. May your legacy by in your films, the enjoyment they bought, in your family and their future, may it be in the response. May we walk together to further understand depression and mental illness.

A friend of mine chose to respond by donating money to Mind, a charity which works to ensure: everyone experiencing a mental health problem 
gets support and respect. I personally cannot think of a better way to respond. So I would like to encourage you to respond as you see best but if you would like to join me in donating you can do so here

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