The tragic death of beloved actor and comedian, Robin Williams (July 21, 1951- August 11, 2014), from an apparent suicide, has put a long overdue national spotlight on mental illness. Following his death, his media representative, released a statement that, in part, read that Williams had been, “battling severe depression of late.”
Authorities believe that the “Awakings,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Aladdin,” and “Good Morning Vietnam,” genius actor’s ongoing battle with depression and bipolar disorder contributed to his suicide; Williams admittedly, also suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, and recently reports have indicated that he was also going through the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Depression is real. Depression is a devastating and serious illness that should not be taken lightly, and if not professionally treated, can end in life threatening consequences that can include suicide.
In America alone, it is estimated that 7% of the population is suffering from major depressive disorder. In addition, the World Health Organization reports that over 300 million people globally are suffering from this disease. With these staggering numbers, it is time that depression gets brought out of the shadows and into the national conversation, with a focus on education to promote understanding in order to erase the sigma that is so often associated with mental illness. Perhaps more lives can be saved this way.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- 5th Edition (DSM-5), Major depression is characterized by, “the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function.”
Depressive symptoms include:
- Depressed Mood: Sadness, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideations or suicide plans or attempts.
- Changes in appetite, and sleep.
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
- Constant fatigue and low energy.
- Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities previously seen as pleasurable.
Depressive symptoms can persist every day for at least 2 consecutive weeks, with impairment in social, occupational, and other significant areas of functioning. Also, for a diagnosis to occur, 5 or more of the symptoms highlighted above have to be present those 2 weeks, with depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in activities being one of the symptoms.
More information about depression from the National Institute of Mental Health can be seen here:
Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder characterized by shifts in moods from manic to major depressive episodes. It is actually believed that Williams had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
According to the DSM-5, manic episodes are characterized by:
- Decreased need of sleep and increased racing thoughts and/or flight of ideas.
- Increased involvement in activities with a high potential of risk and consequences (over spending, risky sexual behaviors, gambling).
- Inflated self-confidence and grandiosity.
- Increased goal-directed activity and excessive planning of multiple activities.
- Pressure to keep talking and distractibility.
The mood in a manic episode is generally described as euphoric and, “feeling on top of the world.”
There is no cure for bipolar disorder; however, it can be treated with ongoing medication and psychotherapy. Some people with bipolar disorder choose not to keep taking the medication prescribed because many describe that the medications typically dulls their senses. For this reason, If you have a loved one suffering from this disease: be loving and supportive, and remember that mental illness is a disease and should be treated in the same way a diagnosis of cancer is handled. They should be encouraged to follow their medication regime as prescribed by their doctor and also, continue to be educated about the illness including treatment options with their doctor.
For those suffering from this illness, we encourage you to please seek professional help and/or contact I-800-273-TALK (8255)
More information about bipolar disorder from the National Institute of Mental Health can be seen here:
Let us all learn from this tragedy and help erase the stigma of mental illness.
We here at PerceptA Therapeutic and Training Center, LLC extend our deepest condolences to Robin Williams’ loved ones at this difficult time.
Robin Williams, you will be dearly missed. Rest In Peace.
~Dr. Anah & The PerceptA Team