All too often it is the tragic loss of a celebrity that brings mental illness to the forefront of our minds. In losing Robin Williams to suicide, the press has been abuzz with words like “suicide,” “depression,” “mental illness,” and “addiction.” What has not been as frequently mentioned is a key component in managing all of those challenges…hope.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, One in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given year. Of those 61.5 million, only 60 percent receive any mental health treatment. I wonder how much of that is related to shame, embarrassment and fear? Scientific research has consistently shown that those with even low levels of hope are less likely to act on suicidal thoughts or impulses. But how do we impart hope to those who are struggling with depression and feel all alone? Education. We live in a society where independence and self-sufficiency are valued. Looking to others for support is often seen as a weakness. By helping others to understand depression is a medical illness, not a character flaw, we can begin to impart hope that things can get better.