A Goodbye to Robin Williams, a Call for Help for the Rest of Us

Photographed by Peter Hapak for TIME Magazine in 2011

Photographed by Peter Hapak for TIME Magazine in 2011

These past few days have been difficult for me, as I'm sure they have been for many. The death of Robin Williams is a terrible loss for this world, but just as terrible is the fact that this loss brought my own struggle with depression back to the surface.

I've written about my depression before, but now I think it's important to readdress the issue of mental health. Depression is real, and it hurts.

There are a lot of aspects of depression that make it so difficult to handle. It lies to you and makes you believe those lies. It's isolating. Sometimes it physically hurts. It makes you forget who you are. I could go on, but the point is that depression is devastating, and sometimes people can't handle it. People who self-harm or commit suicide are not cowards. They are not selfish. They are people living with a serious, clinical problem, and they did not get the help they needed.

Getting help, though, is harder than it sounds. My depression spiraled further and further out of control for 10 years before I was finally able to get help. My depression made me believe I was alone and always would be. It made me believe that talking to my friends about my depression was selfish of me and would bring everyone else down. It made me believe that my problems weren't as serious as other people's, so I didn't really need help. This was just how I was. For 10 years depression filled my head with lies and sadness and pain and hopelessness. It filled my head with so many awful things until there was no more room for anything else, and then it laughed when I said I felt empty. Look, it said. Look at everything I've given you.

Depression and other associated mental disorders are serious problems, and life is sometimes unbearable for those of us struggling with them. What's also unbearable is that help for these disorders is not as available as it should be. The stigma that surrounds mental health is outdated, and yet it still pervades the mind of our society. Mental health is not something to run away from or scoff at or be afraid of. They are health problems that need to be addressed like any other. My depression is all in my head, which sometimes makes it hard for me to believe it's real, but the truth is that I need my antidepressants just as much as my diabetic grandmother needs her insulin.

These past few days have been difficult for me. A lot is changing in my life right now, and Robin Williams' suicide frightened me. I've been happy for the past few months, but this loss brought my fears of my depression to the forefront of my life. What if I'm making the wrong decisions? What if I should be home right now? What if my meds fail to keep my depression at bay? These questions and more have been roiling my mind, and it's been harder than usual to stay positive and healthy. I'm getting there, though. Writing this helps. Talking to my friends and family helps. Knowing that there might be people who will read this and be encouraged to get help helps.

Dealing with depression is a struggle, but you can get help. Talk to your family. Talk to your friends. Talk to your therapist. Let someone know that you need help. They won't turn away from you like your depression wants you to believe they will. They will help you in your struggle.

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in America is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of suicide prevention helplines around the world. Also, To Write Love On Her Arms has an excellent list of helplines and treatment and counseling locators as well as additional resources to manage mental health. Feel free to leave a comment here if you need help and don't know where else to go. 

We are all mourning the loss of Robin Williams. He was an incredible and truly unique person, and he will be missed more than any of us can say. But we can't forget that there are so many people still fighting depression and mental illness. If, like me, you're one of those people, keep fighting. We are stronger than this illness. I have to believe that.

"You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it." — Robin Williams