Out of the darkness

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The recent suicide of the beloved actor Robin Williams is a stark reminder of how devastating depression can be for those who suffer from it. Much of the reaction to the condition that played a significant role in his death also highlights how misunderstood the disease still is today.

Many mistakenly believe that depression is merely an emotional condition, much like having the blues on a rainy day. There are even those in the wake of his death who have questioned why Williams would be depressed at all, given his fame, wealth and seemingly endless ability to make anyone laugh until their sides split. Some even remarked at how selfish he must have been to take his own life versus “toughing it out.”

The fact is that depression is a physical and, ultimately, a medical condition, like cancer or heart disease. To question why someone would simply not choose to overcome depression through sheer will and seeing the bright side of life would be the same as asking a cancer patient why they simply don’t wish away their disease. Not only would such a question be highly insensitive, but would also reveal how little is known about such a condition.

We can only speculate as to Williams’ thoughts in the days leading up to his death, but we do know that for those who suffer from it depression itself can create such a mindset that suicide becomes a rational option.

Seeking treatment for depression is not a sign of weakness. If you believe you suffer from depression, we urge you to seek medical help. If you’d like to become more educated about depression, visit the National Institue for Mental Health’s website at www.nimh.nih.gov. We hope that as more people become informed about the facts concerning depression, it will remove the social stigma that keeps those who need help from seeking it.