The problem of depression.

Catharine writes: –

The news of actor Robin Williams tragic death has caused widespread shock waves. As President Obama said in his tribute “he was one of a kind – he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”

Two days ago, I sat with a group of friends watching the movie Good Will Hunting with one Robin Willliams, for which he got a well-deserved Oscar. It was a spell-binder. What a gift that man has given us – a gift that will not soon be forgotten. It spite of tragedy, and perhaps even because of it.

Now many more people are reflecting on the whole subject of depression, and the need for greater awareness about its’ nature and impact.

The Montreal Gazette has carried a series of outstanding articles on the subject (August 12-13-14).

The headline on Wednesday was “Depression does not discriminate”. It quotes Gustav Turecki, head of the depressive disorders programme at Montreal’s Douglas Mental Health Institute, who emphasises that “Anyone can become ill regardless of their means and social class.”

The article underlines the fact that “Depression is still taboo in many places. It is seen as a weakness and as flaw of character.”, so that people, especially men, are less inclined to seek help.

Thankfully, the actress Glenn Close is now playing a major role in raising public consciousness about the need to lift the stigma that has been attached for so long to the bipolar disorder that was experienced by her own sister.

Since Neil wrote an account of his own life-threatening battle with depression in his memoir, The Inside Story, I have talked with many people whose families have experienced similar trauma.

In his memoir, Neil describes the ferocious fury of the snarling dogs unleashed by depression. He says “ As those who write about depression admit, we have no language to describe it adequately. In my opinion, the American novelist William Styron has done it best in Darkness Visible. To compare depression to a prolonged blues, a malaise we all experience from time to time would be like comparing an April shower to a tornado.”

And in Thursday’s Gazette article, Queen’s University (Kingston, ON) mental health expert, Dr Heather Stuart says that “Profoundly public tragedies, like the death of the one of the most celebrated comedians in history, should be used as an opportunity for increasing awareness around suicide. Increasing early detection and breaking down stigma.”

As holder of the Bell Canada Mental Health research chair, she expresses her concern about media commentary that William somehow chose suicide. People don’t choose to have depression or any mental illness. Suicide is a catastrophic outcome of a very significant illness.. We wouldn’t dream of blaming people for dying of cancer or heart disease. We just don’t even bring that mindset to the table.”

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