I've been considering writing a post on this topic for a while now, but in light of recent events, it seemed more relevant than ever. Robin Williams sadly passed away on 11th August from suspected suicide, after a long battle with depression.
His death has shocked people the world over, who simply cannot comprehend how a man who on the surface appeared so happy and so full of life, could behind closed doors be suffering to such an extent that he felt death was the only way out.
It's awful that it has taken the death of such a talented, inspirational man in order to raise this issue, but if anything positive at all can be taken from this tragic event, it is that hopefully it will help to remove the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
If you haven't ever suffered with a mental illness yourself, then it's extremely difficult to understand them. Because there are no obvious, physical symptoms, it's easy to pass mental health issues off as less severe, or less "real". However, this couldn't be further from the truth and as Williams' death highlights, mental illness can and does kill.
One of the problems in our society is that terms like depression and anxiety are thrown around far too easily, which almost belittles the illnesses to mere emotions. Being sad, or worried, is a perfectly normal human occurrence. It is when these feelings become so overwhelming that they have a debilitating impact on your day to day life that it becomes an issue.
Over the past couple of years I have suffered with anxiety and for a long time I avoided going to see a doctor, purely because I knew that I wouldn't be able to explain 'why' I was feeling the way I was. It's easy to try and pinpoint a cause that may have resulted in the illness, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes there really is no trigger, it just happens.
You wouldn't ask someone with cancer "why" they have cancer. It's all too easy to ask "what have they got to be depressed about?", "what have they got to be anxious about?", but for many, half of the problem is that they don't know why they are feeling the way that they do. Robin Williams was an extremely well-loved, successful actor-comedian and yet he was still burdened with this terrible disease. Mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of fame, wealth, gender or age.
From experience, I have found that when it comes to my anxiety there is no overnight cure, or a single pill that will take everything away. But seeing a doctor and getting help is a vital step in the right direction and there are counsellors and therapists that they can refer you to, who specialise in helping people to overcome these problems. According to mental health charity Mind, every year one in four of us will experience some form of mental illness including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, extreme OCD or schizophrenia, to name but a few. I assure you, you'd be surprised how many people that you know who will have suffered from, or are still suffering with, similar problems.
In the words of Stephen Fry, who has openly spoken of his own battle with bipolar disorder-
"It will be sunny one day.
It isn't under one's control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
If you, or anyone you know, is suffering, I would recommend checking out mind.org.uk and samaritans.org.
Help is out there.