Robin Williams died today, and I cannot help but wonder if there is something we as society could have done to prevent it.
Williams’ openly struggled with alcoholism and depression. He did not try to hide his inner demons and trials.
Our society is not forgiving toward individuals with mental health disorders such as alcoholism and depression. We live in a world where people want things to make sense. We want black and white answers; we want life to fit into neat packages with nice ribbons tied around them.
Unfortunately, the world is full of shades of grey and oddly shaped packages. Mental health disorders are one of those areas.
People do not know what to do with individuals whose odd behavior rubs us the wrong way, have outbursts that make us uncomfortable, and disrupt our society’s comings and goings. People think we are weak minded or need to “get over” whatever it is that we are struggling with. Society certainly does not know how to talk about mental health and the things that surround it.
As a result of this, people who struggle with mental health disorders feel isolated and judged. We are defined by our disease and not seen as whole individuals.
I am writing this today because I have a mental health disorder and I am tired of hiding a part of who I am.
I have come to realize that while I am thoroughly frustrated by society’s lack of discussion about the world of mental health, I am—in a sense—contributing to this silence. By not discussing my own challenges, I am telling people around me that it is okay to not discuss things like bipolar disorder, addiction, and schizophrenia.
There are some of you out there who are saying, “You are making very broad generalizations about society and its understanding of mental health.” You are right. There are thousands of people talking about their mental health problems and countless others helping those people learn how to manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.
I am simply stating that on the whole, society has made a choice to not speak about these things.
And maybe if we did, tragedies like Robin Williams’ death would happen less often.
If you are reading this and you feel alone because of your mental health disease, please know you are not. Please know I am thinking about you. And please know you are not fighting this fight by yourself.
*Title from song by Hayden Calnin of the same name.