Have you noticed that the daily news programs have been devoting 2-3 minutes talking about depression this week as a result of Robin Williams’ death? The news anchor will say, “Now is an appropriate time for us to have this conversation with our kids and one another.” Actually, that’s not quite right. ALL THE TIME is the best time for having these conversations.
Why does it take celebrity deaths to bring these conversations to the forefront? Don’t get me wrong! I LOVE Robin Williams and believe it’s an awful tragedy that the world has lost a very special person who could either make us laugh or cry. But the sad thing is…he could never make himself laugh. How could we not know this? Or what could’ve been done to help him since he was so open with the public about his struggles with addictions, treatment, and depression? Didn’t we have an obligation to begin these conversations years ago when he tried so hard to initiate them with people in the public eye who could make a difference?
As Matt Lauer said on Tuesday morning, “Each appearance was like a gift you couldn’t wait to open.” He was a unique man who made the world a better place in many different ways. Shouldn’t we see our own family and friends as gifts we can’t wait to open? The most recent statistic is that someone takes his/her own life every 17 seconds in the United States. If I did my math correctly, that’s around 4000-5000 people each day. What can we do to help them? When someone is depressed, they aren’t usually in a state of mind to help themselves.
I have a personal stake in this as I lost a cousin to suicide years ago, and a former significant other continues to battle depression and addiction. In fact, when I think back on my relationships, I have been with four men who have struggled with depression and addiction. It was heartbreaking when one of them told me he didn’t want to live anymore, and I stayed with him every minute because I was always worried he would drink himself to death. I could not bare the thought of walking into the house to find him dead. I just couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to live because I was in his life. Shouldn’t that be enough to have someone offering to support you and love you, no matter where you are in your life? In fact, my first love also told me he didn’t want to live anymore. Fortunately, he was still in high school and living at home, and his mom was a very loving person. As hard as it was to let go of the constant worrying, there came a point when I had to plead for someone else to watch out for them. I’m not trained to be a psychologist, and I just couldn’t help someone who couldn’t help himself. I did everything they tell you to do when someone is experiencing these critical issues. What more could I do?
This has been an intense week for news. While we sit safely at home on our couches and watch the violence that is taking place in Missouri, we need to remember that the community who is demonstrating peacefully is setting an example for us all. They have had enough, and they are not going to back down. Americans have been despondent for far too long about all the wrongs we have endured. This town is showing us that we have to stand up for what we believe in and keep standing up every single day. What can they teach us about the death of Robin Williams and the millions of American people who die each year from suicide?
Depression, addictions and suicide are not going to just magically disappear after the news programs have done their duty this week by having a psychiatrist speak for 2 minutes. It is our job to make sure these discussions do not stop. So here is my contribution at this time.
My Hope: This hope has been in the making for some time since I’ve had many personal experiences with these issues over the years. The conversations need to begin and continue until the end of time! We all need to initiate discussions with others, write letters to the editor, speak with our family and friends whom we are concerned about, demand that our government take mental wellness/illness seriously, and do whatever we can to keep these issues alive in our daily conversations. If you have other ideas to make my hope come true, please please please, share them below.