Robin Williams' death is everywhere this week. It's been on my mind as to whether or not I would post something about it, as I have really mixed feelings about the general furore that follows the death of a celebrity, whether accidental or in this case, probably not so much. On the one hand, depression is once again in the media, and that's no bad thing. But on the other - why does it take the death of a celebrity to make that happen? People are dying by suicide every single day. Mental ill health will affect 1 in 3 people over the course of their lifetime, that's a higher rate than cancer. But still, still, it takes something like this for it to be ok to talk about it. In fact, it almost seems obligatory to talk about it this week.
Some days, I would give anything to be rid of my little spark of madness. Others, I'm grateful for it. Some days, I want to bang my head against a wall in frustration at the fact that a change in attitude towards mental illness is happening so painfully slowly. Then there are days like today when there are so many mixed feelings - a pang of sadness that someone else has thought suicide was the only option, recognition for what he must have been feeling, relief that I didn't go down that road, fear that I may someday feel that badly again, hope that the lid is being further lifted on a difficult conversation, frustration that for the next couple of days it will be ok to admit to having depression or another mental illness, but once the dust settles, the cloak of silence will come back down and once more, mental health, or lack thereof, will be off the agenda.
There's a depression bandwagon rolling at the moment. I appreciate the irony of my lamenting that fact while at the same time writing about it, but it's what's on my mind. The difference for me though, as well as the countless others who have experienced mental illness, is that our issues won't stop when the media looks away. Our need for help won't go away just because it's not the subject of the moment. This is a conversation that needs to continue, long term.
I'd like to think that maybe the impact of the death of someone so well known, and such an inspiration to many, will prompt people to pause, and maybe reflect a little. Contact numbers of support services have been flying around the internet all week, and that is wonderful to see. But those numbers need to be kept in circulation, regardless of circumstances. We all need reminding every now and then that it's ok to ask for help, and sometimes having that reminder come entirely unprompted can be all the more powerful. I'm saddened that the conversation has had to come about once more as a result of tragedy, but maybe we can take some learning from it? Ask someone how they're doing today, and listen, really listen, to the answer. You might be throwing them a lifeline.
This post first appeared here.