Following the shocking news that actor Robin Williams has taken his own life, the issue of mental health has once again grabbed the world’s attention. The obvious response – as is the case in these circumstances – is to ask ‘Why’. Why did a successful actor worth millions, who is loved and adored all around the world feel the need to take his own life? Perhaps more importantly, why could a husband and father of three, not speak to his family, and felt suicide was the only way out? Unfortunately, nobody will ever know the answer, which is why more needs to be done to help those who suffer from the same illness which took Robin Williams’ life.
Mental health is a divisive topic. It is a topic which splits opinion and leads to constant debate. Many people still deem illnesses such as depression as a sign of ‘weakness’ in an individual. They see suicide as a cowardly act, with family members and friends left to try and come to terms with something that should never occur. However, to see people who suffer from depression and other metal health related illnesses in this way is to wash your hands of the issue and pretend that it does not exist. Only, it DOES exist, and the continued ignorance by society of an issue that affects so many people, will only lead to more people feeling that there is only one way out – suicide.
We all know someone affected by cancer. We are constantly reminded of this through advertising because it is true. The terrible thing about cancer is that there is no definitive cure, and so by donating money and setting up charities that look to raise money and awareness, we as a society feel as if we are taking a meaningful step towards fighting a disease which affects so many. So why isn’t this the case with mental health. By the same logic as that of cancer, most people sometime in their life will come across someone affected by mental health issues. I know for one, that I have met people or know of people who are affected by illnesses such as depression. Yet somehow, unlike with physical illnesses, the majority of people when thinking of donating money to charity are ignorant to the plight of people who suffer mentally. Part of this is because of advertising. When was the last time you saw and advert concerning mental health? People are ignorant of this issue because there is such little awareness in the first place. A disease like cancer is a truly devastating illness and when a sufferer loses their personal battle is rightfully greeted with great sorrow. However, despite this in most cases there is an understanding from family and friends, that everything possible has been done to maintain that person’s life. That is not the case with mental health illnesses.
A death like that of Robin Williams’ makes people think. ‘What could have been done?’, ‘How could I have helped?’ are just a few of the questions that will haunt those who were close to the actor. People suffering from cancer and other physically-related illnesses, more often than not will still feel and know that they have the love and compassion of family and friends. Those who suffer mentally often will not. A hidden illness such as depression means that to an extent, family and friends are powerless to help unless that person opens up. These people often feel that they have nobody to talk to, not even family or friends – an unimaginable and terrible thought for most of us. Which is why help and understanding is so important in the battle against mental health illnesses. The idea of going to see a psychiatrist is an embarrassing thought and a sign of weakness for many sufferers, when in actual fact, the decision to go and seek professional help is an incredibly courageous decision in itself. With more advertising, more money will be donated to expand the number of professionals who can help in these situations and by raising awareness through advertising, more everyday people will feel a greater understanding towards those who suffer in silence.
Lastly, I felt obliged to write this post after hearing of the death of Robin Williams. I consider myself as no expert in mental health, but rather an everyday person who wants to voice their opinion in the hope that more people will talk about an issue which never seems to get enough exposure. I hope people who read this feel more obliged to raise understanding of this issue in the hope that less people will suffer from an illness, where so much more can be done to help and prevent an outcome like that of Robin Williams’. The fact that a man, who with the capacity to buy many material things that make him the envy of so many people, suffered from this illness shows that money cannot buy happiness. Everybody is different and personality is the special thing that makes people different. The idea that an organ like the brain, which characterises individuals, can succumb to an illness which can end a life is a horrendous thought and only by talking about the issue and taking more action to prevent this illness will society as a whole feel they have done all they can.