Last night, we were all shocked upon hearing about Robin William's tragic death. A number of reports indicate that he might have committed suicide. It has also been reported that he had been struggling with depression and that he had recently checked into a substance abuse treatment facility. It appears that he spent most of his adult life struggling with mental health problems. And heartbreaking as this is, it is also as heartbreaking to know that he is not alone. Millions of Americans (and an even larger number of people around the world) spend years of their lives struggling with conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse problems, PTSD, and eating disorders. We all know people who struggle. Our friends, our partners, our family members, our coworkers. Many times, even ourselves. And yet, we rarely talk about mental disorders.
Like any other disease, mental disorders thrive on silence. It's simple: the less we talk about them, the less we know how to protect ourselves, and thus, the faster they spread. That's why education is key to prevention and treatment.
So one thing we can all do from the comfort of our homes today is to spend a few minutes educating ourselves about mental heath. You can find a lot of information and resources by simply googling "depression" "anxiety" "substance abuse problems" and so on. You can also visit the websites of non-profit advocacy organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, to name a few. Also, I would like to point you in the direction of Dr. Jonathan Rottenberg's campaign to end depression stigma called "Come out of the Dark"
I know this is only a small first step towards ending stigma. But sometimes, the smallest of steps can have the largest impacts.