I was hit with waves of sadness yesterday. We lost Robin Williams. I do not claim or pretend to know too much about him. When I was young, I loved watching ‘Mork and Mindy’. I saw him in the movies and lately his star ascended again in the advertisement comedy ‘the Crazy ones‘. The thought most on my mind was ‘How can Sarah Michelle Gellar ever keep a straight face around him?’
Yesterday and today there are no happy faces, we lost a giant. I am not the only one thinking this. Twitter was buzzing with news and condolences from the famous and non-famous alike. The Guardian had a story (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/12/russell-brand-robin-williams-divine-madness-broken-world). It is an article by Russell Brand, and seeing him outside of comedy or from the stage of the social aware was reason to take a look at this. The article shows two clear things. The first is that there is a lot more to Russell Brand then I thought there was. He is brilliant in his own way and he is asking out loud certain questions we do not tend to ask. Basically I saw more journalism in Russell Brand in one article then several have showed this year (if you, the reading journalist are the exception, then I apologise for my generalising directness).
There is a quote at the end that gives pause to wonder “What I might do is watch Mrs Doubtfire. Or Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting and I might be nice to people, mindful today how fragile we all are, how delicate we are, even when fizzing with divine madness that seems like it will never expire“.
If we are all so fragile, how can we cope? If we are all sane, how can we give support to those with mental health issues? It I however this quote which strikes a nerve “Hidden behind his beard and kindness and compliments was a kind of awkwardness, like he was in the wrong context or element, a fallen bird on a hard floor. It seems that Robin Williams could not find a context. Is that what drug use is? An attempt to anaesthetise against a reality that constantly knocks against your nerves, like tinfoil on an old school filling, the pang an urgent message to a dormant, truer you“.
I am not sure if the thought is correct as such (from my point of view). It might apply to Robin Williams, Russell had met the man, I never had, so why my opposition to this?
Well, is drug use just that? I was fortunate to stay away from drugs, yet is it an anaesthetic against reality or a way to see a better reality as these users think it will, a more appealing one? You see, if Russell is right, then every famous comedian would become a drug user, I find that thought too depressing. Robin Williams once stated “Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t handle drugs“, it is just a comedy statement, but there is also the statement from another giant, a musical one who stated “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself“. The man was Bob Marley!
Before I continue, I need to add another article. It was written by Dean Burnett (at http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/aug/12/robin-williams-suicide-and-depression-are-not-selfish). Here he writes something particularly strong and interesting: “to say taking your own life because of such an illness is a ‘selfish’ act does nothing but insult the deceased, potentially cause more harm and reveal a staggering ignorance of mental health problems“.
Russell and Dean are both hitting one side of the same coin. My worry is not: ‘why this is happening to Robin Williams’, but why are we seeing it only now? Is Robin Williams the moment we start to wake up and realise that we have a massive issue which a ton of people have been hiding under the rug because it was too uncomfortable?
Dean goes on for a bit longer, but then he doesn’t just hit the nail on the head, he makes a case why the nail was never guilty and did not deserved to get hammered.
“That doesn’t mean those with reduced likelihood of exposure to hardships or tragic events are immune. Smoking may be a major cause of lung cancer, but non-smokers can end up with it. And a person’s lifestyle doesn’t automatically reduce their suffering. Depression doesn’t work like that. And even if it did, where’s the cut-off point? Who would we consider ‘too successful’ to be ill?”
I myself had that very same thought. ‘Why would a man this successful, having a beautiful daughter who is starting to have her own successful career, a massive success in his field be depressed?‘
It is a side I never really considered when having to read ‘Crime and Mental Health Law in New South Wales‘ by D. Howard. Those who try to give aid in one way or another, being it through legal aid, through psychological aid or through medical aid might have unintentionally missed a side we never considered. Russell voices it as “Is it melancholy to think that a world that he can’t live in must be broken?” But from my view the world is not broken (it is just in control by those filled with greed). The physician might note that this world can be lived in (it is just severely polluted and food is getting more and more expensive) lastly the psychiatrist wanted to talk about it but he had no sense of humour, apparently he was German.
The powerful statement Russell made in the beginning “Is it melancholy to think that a world that he can’t live in must be broken?” is now slightly changed (by me). “Is the world making me too sad to consider remaining here for another day?” I feel so sad because I lost an idol of comedy. I am certain I will get over it, but I know I am not alone, many with me remember the man who was the Genie, voicing the life of Donald Trump ‘PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS!!! … Itty-bitty living space‘.
We will soon enough remember again and again the famous moments that made us laugh or be silent. Yet, the issues on depression remain, not for just those Robin left behind, but for those who are still fighting this battle. A battle that is not just uphill, but for many it is a losing uphill battle and that is how they feel from the beginning of the journey they walk.
It is not new; depression has been around for at least 3 centuries, it has had many names. It was called Melancholy and Charlotte Smith wrote a sonnet to it in 1785. She wrote:
O Melancholy!–such thy magic power,
That to the soul these dreams are often sweet,
And sooth the pensive visionary mind!
Which might be better phrased as:
Oh dark dread, stopper of heart and reason
in my dreams I yearn to end
so that in my next life, I find a friend
Did the sonnet turn people away from depression as it was not a real condition?
I think that too many have never seen it for the dangerous affliction it truly is. Dean goes on and writes in his article in regards to ‘a’ selfish act “The ‘selfish’ accusation also often implies that there are other options the sufferer has, but has chosen suicide“. Was suicide even a choice? Are those on this track choosing at all? I have seen my share of people under Section 20 and Section 21 of the mental health act. Those who are hospitalised through them without and with their consent. There has been enough documentation that these people never seemed to have any choice in the matter. From their one sided view, there was only one path and only when services were too late lives were lost.
So, the medical branch seems to know the dangers, the legal branch has the knowledge that resulted in the existence of a section 20 and a section 21 of the mental health act, but these two are only 0.001% of a population, wouldn’t it be great if the other 99% catches on, on how dangerous and lethal depression really is?
Russell also wakes up to a revelation in the quote “When someone gets to 63 I imagined, hoped, I suppose, that maturity would grant an immunity to adolescent notions of suicide but today I read that suicide isn’t exclusively a young man’s game“, depression is timeless and it is ageless. We are bound to endure its dangers quite literally from the cradle to the grave, we can only hope for true friends around us to be there when it overwhelms any of us.
There is one more article that must be mentioned. It is again in the Guardian, but now it is Simon Jenkins (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/12/robin-williams-sadness-clown-addiction-mental-illness) that writes his view, but then he makes one ‘mistake’, perhaps it is just the observation he makes, but I disagree completely and for that I must lash out. He wrote “Therapists wander the scene like surgeons on a medieval battlefield, at a loss for what to do“.
I do not think that this is the case; it has not been the case for some time. Yet, some physicians and some psychiatrists seem to have inherited a former treatment for this, ‘have a pill, sit in a corner until the moment passes‘. There is enough evidence that this is no longer the approach and the current generation is still fixing the mess the previous generation made; but even today many are learning on how long the path to a cure is. Perhaps it is never cured, but in some cases it could be managed, as long as the patient does not do it alone. It is a personal view I have. I might be very wrong indeed and if someone lashes out to me for that same reason, then so be it.
I do know that in many places it is getting more and more the visibility it should have had, but let us not forget that depression was not generally accepted and published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until the 3rd edition in 1980. The documentation that is openly out there shows that depression was a debilitating disease long before it was made a sonnet in 1785, so people had known about it for well over 300 years, which means the adoption only 30 years ago is still a questionable issue. So, it seems that therapist are not at a loss for what to do, but there seems to be a lacking clarity of what will truly work. It does seem that medication alone will not ever be a solution.
It is clear that we are not there yet. If you think other whiles then consider that for the DSM-V the following is currently set: “DSM – V proposed (not yet adopted) anxiety symptoms that may indicate depression: irrational worry, preoccupation with unpleasant worries, trouble relaxing, feeling tense, fear that something awful might happen.”
Proposed, but not yet adopted!
We are not there yet and there is a long way to go. We can only hope that this road will have the resources needed to get there. I reckon we need to keep a view on the events that have shaped our view of the world and of those in it, for some of them will need our help. We might not be physicians or psychiatrists, but we can all do a little bit, so that they can do what must be done to find a solution for those who need help. If we keep to the cold statistics then we see that in the USA alone, 10% have it, this means that in one nation alone 30 million people are afflicted with depression, the reality is much higher because many do not seek help and some around them do not realise that depression is very near to them. Healthline (provider of health information) also reported the following: “60%-80% of all depression cases can be effectively treated with brief, structured forms of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication“.
I find absolutely nothing true in that statement, if it was then depression would have been successfully treated in so many cases and I would not have lost an idol. I think that it is time to take another true look at this without caring about budget cuts and ego’s.
If we get Keating involved, as Robin played him in Dead Poet’s Society, I would state “Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die“, is that, what we, with our ‘generic’ view of mental health condemn these people to?
So I hope that politicians will take this event to sit down and proclaim that they will ‘take another true look at today’s mental health issues‘.
I will have a reason to smile, but I will say “Son of a bitch! They stole my line!“