Wil­liams’ death sheds light on men­tal-health is­sues

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT -

Re­gard­ing the re­cent blog post “Robin Wil­liams’ death a wake-up call for men­tal health work­ers” (ModernHealth­care.com, Aug. 12), as a life­long ad­vo­cate and men­tal health­care provider, I, on be­half of my col­leagues, ap­plaud the ef­forts of sto­ry­tellers and jour­nal­ists such as John N. Frank who chal­lenge us to be more in­tro­spec­tive and of­fer a wake-up call to the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. Such ef­forts help us to con­stantly re-eval­u­ate the work we do and en­sure that we are en­gag­ing in mean­ing­ful di­a­logue across com­mu­ni­ties, dis­ci­plines and within families. It is im­por­tant to help peo­ple re­al­ize that re­sources are avail­able to com­bat the chal­lenges they ex­pe­ri­ence and they do not need to suf­fer alone.

Robin Wil­liams has for­ever cut off his spark from the rest of us—his wit, his hu­mor and his hu­man­ity—and in do­ing so he also shed light on an is­sue that we as a so­ci­ety must face. De­pres­sion chron­i­cally man­i­fests it­self as a feel­ing of be­ing alone. As a re­sponse to this tragedy, we must seek to fur­ther the dis­cus­sion, out­reach and, yes, of­fer effective treat­ment, for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from this com­mon and re­liev­able ex­pe­ri­ence.

Wil­liams’ tragic pass­ing serves as a stark re­minder that men­tal ill­ness knows no bar­ri­ers. We must make this a com­mu­nal is­sue about re­duc­ing stigma, en­hanc­ing ac­cess to qual­ity care and ad­dress­ing the bar­ri­ers that keep peo­ple from achiev­ing op­ti­mal phys­i­cal and men­tal health. It is vi­tal that we share sto­ries about con­fronting and over­com­ing de­pres­sion and other men­tal-health is­sues. Only by re­as­sur­ing suf­fer­ers that there is help, that they are not alone and that they can get bet­ter, can we over­come the stigma that pre­vents them from reach­ing out for help.

There are ev­i­dence-based and effective treat­ments at many provider agen­cies through­out the coun­try. We must shout from the rooftops that help is avail­able, and that peo­ple can and do get bet­ter. David J. Wood­lock Pres­i­dent and CEO ICL, New York; For­mer deputy com­mis­sioner New York State Of­fice of Men­tal Health

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