Lessons to be Learned from Robin Williams

In the past week much has been said about the suicide of Robin Williams. People around the world have mourned the loss of this famous actor and his premature death.  As a community, is there a lesson to be learned about mental health and the stigma surrounding mental health issues?

While there is certainly more talk about depression and suicide, and more advice on what to look for in family and friends that may have mental health issues, are people truly comfortable sharing their story with those outside their inner circle? Famous performers like Williams, athletes like Canadian Clara Hughes and political figures have stood up to share their stories.  In a perfect world we should all be able to share the truth.  Unfortunately, the world is not perfect, and the stigma surrounding mental health issues remains steadfast.

The solution is simple. We can all help eliminate the unnecessary “mark of disgrace” that surrounds mental health issues by being more open and caring towards the people that we interact with on a daily basis.  We often do not know if a colleague or friend is struggling with a mental health problem.  We don’t listen, we don’t hear, or we respond negatively, or think, “what is that person’s problem?” without reflecting that someone’s behaviour may indicate something more serious than having a bad day.

Abolishing the use of words like, “crazy” or “insane” to describe those with mental health issues is key.  Education is another important opportunity for understanding depression, biopolar, phobias, anxiety, and panic disorders, etc.  The Canadian Mental Health Association, doctor’s offices, clinics, and libraries all have resources on many mental health topics.

Start conversations with family and friends about mental health.  Help others share their stories and struggles.  You don’t have to be famous like Robin Williams or Clara Hughes to battle mental wellness. But you do have to be brave and open enough to speak up and speak out!

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, contact your family doctor or your local emergency department.  If you would like personal counselling or help with a mental health concern, contact Annette Poechman.  Listening, Guiding, Caring.