Robin Williams & Mental Health

Mental health is something that as a society we don't like talking about and while we may be getting better, we're certainly not doing it fast enough. Last week we lost Robin Williams, a man of many talents who was loved and respected around the world. From the tributes that have poured in it's clear to see what a great man he was and how many lives he touched.

I'm not writing this to add to the mourning though. While I have a great amount of respect for him, I feel there is a bigger, more important message that should come from this - and that is, this can happen to anyone.

Robin Williams was hugely successful, he had a loving family and was adored by fans around the world. He was the the bright light for many when they were in a dark place, and will be for many years to come. He had the time, means and support to attempt to tackle his mental health issues. Yet, he still lost his battle.

Some will say that he was 'taking the easy way out', or 'at least he was in control of his destiny'. Bullshit. He had a medical condition that got the better of him even though he fought it for years.

People need to understand that this wasn't a decision that he truly made. It's likely that his brain was telling him this was the only option. Try to imagine, your brain telling you, convincing you, that taking your life is your only option. Let that sink in. That is a medical condition, not a state of mind, and more people need to treat it that way.

Suicide is something that should never be celebrated or justified, with the possible exception of euthanasia cases. When we lose someone to suicide, we as a society, have failed that person. That's hard for me to say, when earlier this year I lost a colleague and friend to mental health issues, but it's the truth. In the end while I believe I did the best I could for him with the information I had, the fact still remains that ultimately we failed him. He had a medical condition that we didn't treat.

I guess what I'm trying to say is feel free to mourn Robin Williams, he deserves at least that. Equally though, use this as a wake up call of how important it is that we start tackling mental health issues properly, lets discuss them and treat them the same way we do any other severe medical issue. 1 in 4 New Zealanders suffer from some sort of mental health issue. A few of your friends or family do. Do you know who they are? Are you doing everything you can for them? When was the last time you just talked with them about it? Their lives are just as important as Robin's, but nobody is talking about them, and they should be.

— Those blinded by sadness, have no light to see everyone around them.