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Robin Williams’ death on August 11 shocked the world, in part because it was unexpected. But also, perhaps selfishly, because the loss ends a long career spent entertaining us with his cheetah-fast wit, spot-on impersonations, and heart-felt performances. Because so many of Robin Williams’ movies are part of our cultural fabric, our loss is both personal and cultural.
Williams’ career was unique for its range and its longevity. Although Williams may best be known for his improvisational and manic comedy, he trained at Julliard’s prestigious acting program. Williams was recognized repeatedly for his performances—comedies as well as dramas and voiceovers—Mork and Mindy (1978-1982), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets’ Society (1989), The Fisher King (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), The Bird Cage (1996), Good Will Hunting (1997), One Hour Photo (2002), and The Butler (2013). For nearly forty years, younger audiences met Williams in his latest release and embraced him. Unlike many actors, Williams’ career was intergenerational—his fans were grandparents, parents, and children. This week, they all mourned a talented actor. Watch a fan’s tribute to Williams and one created by Fandango.
Remembering and sharing your favorite Williams movie moments is one way to pay tribute to him. Another is by learning more about the illness that contributed to his death. This week, learn more about depression.
More than a Bad Day—
Over 30% of Americans suffers from depression. 2.8% of young adults (18-24 years old) and 4.6% of adults (45-64 years old) report episodes of depression. Women typically have higher depression rates, especially in the months following childbirth. People who suffer from depression are more likely to be recently divorced or unemployed. Yet, depression is rarely talked about and often is misunderstood.
People commonly throw around the phrase, “I’m so depressed” during casual conversations. True depression is more than a bad day or two or ten, and it is diagnosed by a doctor. Visit Dealing With Depression—DWD—to read what depression is and is not. Then visit the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression—IFRED—for more information about the types of depression.
The causes of depression are complex; neurotransmitters, hormones, health, genetics, and trauma each play a role in determining who suffers from depression. Researchers have identified five aspects of your life that can trigger a depressive event. Flip the positive/negative switch to see how these aspects influence depression. Pay attention to the ways the five are interconnected. Hear what depression feels like; watch the first three minutes of the PBS show Depression: Out of the Shadows.
Teens and Depression—
Being a teen is a time of push and pull between independence and dependence—your identity emerges, and you discover more about your style, interests, and beliefs, but you probably still live at home and attend school. Parents and teachers have their own expectations and rules. Independence conflicts, academic pressure, bullying, and new social situations are common during adolescence. Having problems, conflicts, or questions about life can be confusing and upsetting but that does not mean you are depressed. Read the differences between depression and sadness.
It is easy to miss depression, especially in adolescents. People who are depressed can often be mistaken for having a bad attitude. Sometimes, depression can be masked by high-risk behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse. It helps to know the signs of depression.
You are NOT Alone—
Depression is treatable and a number of treatment options are available. The Treatment section of the National Institutes of Health presentation introduces visitors to many of them. Of course any treatment plan should be designed with a doctor. When you meet with your doctor, you may not know what to ask. These questions may help you talk to your doctor.
If you suffer from depression, it may also help to develop specific skills: realistic thinking, problem solving, and goal setting. The DWD website shares three scenarios to show users how these skills can help. Follow the interactive scenarios for Amy: The Perfect Girl, Ingrid: The Girl with Angry Parents, and Joe: The Shy Guy and choose the path each character will take. When the interactive has finished, follow the links in the left margin to learn more about that skill—how it may help lessen depression, and how to implement it.
People who are suffering from depression often feel alone, and those who love them wonder what to do. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers help lines where you can chat online or by phone. The online chat line links those interested in chatting online with accredited crisis centers across the country. Simply read (and agree) to the terms, and enter your zip code. A box appears to tell you of your place in line. If you do not want to wait to chat, you can call the hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Their phones are answered 24/7 and calls and chats are confidential. Call, chat, ask for help.
Depression sufferers often hide in the shadows. They are silent because their depression is not diagnosed. They are silent because their illness is misunderstood. They are silent because they don’t know where to begin. They are silent because they feel alone. Robin Williams’ death reminds us that everyone is connected. No one is alone.