Friday, August 15, 2014

Thinking about Robin Williams - Mental illness is not a character flaw

Robin Williams' tragic death was entirely preventable. As a society we need to stop relegating mental illness to something different from any other illness. Chronic depression is as potentially lethal as stage five cancer. There are medically appropriate treatments for both.

Today, Christian movie critic, Ted Baehr, had the temerity to claim that Williams would not have killed himself had he come to Christ. Tell that to Rick Warren whose son recently committed suicide. Does Mr. Baehr have an advanced degree in psychology? Has he done a hospital residency? When it comes to mental illness a great many ignorant people claim to know a great deal more than they do.

As some of you know I suffer with acute PTSD. I have a constellation of symptoms including anxiety and depression. I survived two attempted murders. The first was by a gunman who had been paid to kill me. The second was by my own hand. Obviously both actors were inept.

The good thing about my failed attempted murder is that I received the intensive treatment that I had been in dire need of for years. After six weeks I was released from Columbia Presbyterian's psychiatric unit with new meds, a new therapist and a new outlook on life. I have been in treatment ever since. A psychiatrist evaluates my medications every two months and my therapist sees me weekly. Through the process I have learned what things are good for me and what things to avoid.

Furthermore, I am way past giving a shit what anyone else thinks. If someone asks me where I am going? “I am off to my shrink.” Why on earth should that be any different from saying that you have an appointment with your dentist? Well, it is different because in our supposedly advanced society treatment for emotional problems comes with a stigma.

I am reminded of how many beautiful gay children kill themselves each year. Every one of those deaths was preventable. We really need to re-think what being a civil society really means. I need to think about what I can do to be part of the solution.

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