Guest post by Lyndall Russell – Melbourne Based Psychotherapist and Trauma specialist.
In the sad and sorrowfully confusing hours and days after finding out of Robin Williams’ tragic death, I was left with one particular thought. What happens to the people who think, “well if someone like Robin Williams, who (presumably) had all the money in the world and access to the best of anything, couldn’t deal with the black dog, then what hope have the rest of us got?” Does the fact that Schneider said Williams had been “not yet ready to share publicly” his battle with Parkinson’s disease, make his suicide any more understandable to us?
There’s a particularly poignant poster floating around Facebook. It talks about how it would be if we treated physical illness with the same lack of care as we do mental illness.
What if, rather than Williams’ death leaving us wondering about the futility of treatment, we really engaged with the serious questions around why mental illness is causing so many deaths. And, for those who believe that we are ‘already on it’, my experience is that we are only paying lip service to the severity, types, causes and impact of the cause of depressive and other mental illnesses. From there, it is only a small jump to realising that our ‘recommended’ treatment regimes are simply not equipped to deal with the complexity of our current situation.
The outpouring of love for Williams’, and the deep pain of his loss around the globe, indicates just how much impact Robin had on the world. He was a unique and special being, who had the exceptional ability to inject delight and wonder in moments filled with so many other emotions. He made us laugh, and he taught us about love and care and what it means to believe in ourselves.
Is it possible that in return for the many gifts Robin Williams has left for us, that we could move towards ensuring that his death is as meaningful as his life was. Can we, for example, stop and accept that putting someone with an acute mental illness on a limited session mental health plan with irregular psychological treatment is actually tantamount to making life worse for these individuals. Can we stop questioning the validity of the impact mental health issues have on all of society in its various forms. Can we open our minds to the possibility that when it comes to mental illness, we’ve already closed them – because we really don’t want to look at what each of these statements might mean in our own lives.
I don’t know the answers, but I certainly know both professionally and personally, that there are many more questions needing to be asked than we are presently asking.