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  • Watch for the signs, seek help for depression

    Dec 11, 2014 | Read More News
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    Danna Whiting
    Danna Whiting, M.S.
    Behavioral Health Administrator

    Once again we share in the sadness of losing one of our most beloved entertainers, Robin Williams. He was someone I grew up seeing on television and in the movies. He seemed real, kind and so very funny. Many were shocked to learn that he had taken his life after struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues for many years. I mean, how can someone so talented be so troubled? How does someone who spent years making us laugh, cry, think and feel be someone who we could not collectively save with our appreciation and adoration? How did fame and fortune not create a ‘cure’ for whatever was ailing him?

    Mental illness is not a definition of a person; it’s a manageable condition like diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure. So why do we think of mental illness differently than medical illness? How many times have you heard, “oh just snap out of it,” or “it’s all in your head.” Society reinforces messages that depression and other mental health issues mean weakness. We tell men in many ways that emotions are wrong, bad and anti-masculine. We tell women that they are “high maintenance” or “drama queens.” These messages perpetuate the stigmatization people feel. Given the messaging, who then wants to admit to the world they suffer from depression, alcoholism, anxiety, or bipolar disorder?

    Depression is an equal opportunity illness. It crosses all socio-economic, racial and cultural lines. Many times a history of trauma in childhood or young adulthood contributes to mental health issues later in life, especially depression. Add in alcohol and drug use and mental illness gets worse. Pile on the stigma that exists for people trying to cope with mental health issues and soon a person may end up living in isolation, hiding their problems and suffering in silence.

    If someone you love expresses hopelessness, lack of motivation, excessive sleeping, insomnia, lack of interest in activities once loved, numbing with drugs and/or alcohol, it may be due to depression. One in 10 people who suffer from depression commit suicide. We can change this statistic with education and community commitment to destroy the boundaries created by stigma.

    If you suspect someone you love suffers from a mental health issue, talk to the person. Offer to help. Offer to listen.  Seek help. Depression can be successfully treated. Recovery from depression and substance abuse is not necessarily a straight line. Sometimes it’s a step or two backwards and then a struggle to move forward again. If a person relapses, they usually feel far more disappointed in themselves than anyone else feels towards them. Encourage them to get back into treatment and remind them that we all stumble from time to time.

    Truth is we all have problems. In the movie, JACK, Robin Williams said “when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish. Think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.” Thank you, Robin, for the gift of your talent and humor. And also for reminding us that we all struggle from time to time and that struggle is part of the human condition.

    If someone expresses suicidal thoughts or actions, don’t wait. Call for help right away by calling 9-1-1 or Pima County’s local crisis line (520) 622-6000. Mobile teams are available 24/7 for mental health crisis evaluation.