Chances Are, You Know Someone Who Has It
By Vanessa Burns (Contributor)
How could a man as funny and as talented as Robin Williams take his own life? He had money, a family, and a glorious career. What more could he want? One can’t have everything and still be depressed.
These are the types of things that shocked fans all over the globe asked themselves after beloved actor Robin Williams committed suicide this past August. There aren’t really any answers to these important questions.
As most of us know, Robin Williams battled with depression. Depression is a mental disorder. It is not sadness. It is not laziness. It is not the feeling you get when you get dumped. Depression is a disease that agonizes more than 350 million people worldwide, 20 million of which live in the United States. Its cause isn’t quite certain, but many factors do come into play as sources of this disorder, such as biological differences and miscommunications between neurotransmitters in the brain, traits inherited from our parents, and in a few cases, life events, such as losing a loved one. However, depression can present itself without a traumatic event occurring in an individual’s life. In these cases, depression appears to have no cause simply because we can’t see one. But it doesn’t make depression less real. It doesn’t make the symptoms more bearable.
Despite depression being an illness that sometimes has no apparent cause, many people believe that there has to be a reason for it, whether it be an abusive relationship, a divorce, or stress at work or school. But this is false. Sure, these factors can sometimes contribute to depression, but not always. Many people with depression don’t know why they feel the way that they do – hopeless, angry, sad, suicidal. They feel this way for no visible reason. But the reason is depression. This disease affects how you feel despite what’s happening in your life. You could have everything you want and still feel depressed, because depression can affect anyone – even famous comedians.
The fact is, depression is so common. Did you know that it affects 1 in 8 adolescents? That means that you most likely know a few classmates that are depressed. You just might not know that they are suffering. There is such a negative stigma associated with depression and with mental disorders in general. That’s only because we – as students, as Canadians, as humans – simply aren’t educated on this topic. We don’t know what the symptoms are, we’re not sure what causes it, and we don’t know how common it is. We need to talk about it. We need to become more understanding about what it is and how it affects people. So many people are suffering, and many of them are suffering in silence. Too many mothers, lovers, friends, classmates, and even comedians are suffering. But for them to speak up, we need to speak up too. We need to talk about depression.