The world was shocked by the news of the passing of Robin Williams. Equally shocking was the cause of his death. Robin Williams suffered from and ultimately lost his battle with bipolar disorder. My social media sites were flooded with messages of support for those suffering from mental illnesses. But I can’t shake the feeling that most of these people don’t really care.
They may think they care but if it only concerns you when it happens to a celebrity, you’re clearly not that invested. There are all different types of people who do this but those who’s lives are touched by mental illness I find particularly terrible.
Relationships can be hard for people who have a friend, family member, or significant other afflicted with a mental illness. It may put stress on the relationship because of the needs and experiences of the one suffering. This causes some people to check out entirely and distance themselves because they don’t want to constantly hear about the others problems or want the stress of caring. These people enjoy the good times and run when things get rocky. They don’t want their lives disturbed for something they see as not their problem. But then someone with a high profile comes out or in Robin William’s case succumbs and they post sappy messages on social media all the while ignoring the person who they could actually help. Because helping is not convenient for them.
Of course some are just oblivious to mental illness altogether. Whether it be be choice or design. They say things like people who suffer from depression are just “lazy” and “need to think positive.” They are so caught up in themselves and what they’ve experienced that they lack empathy towards a group of people who’s experience they may never truly understand. But society at large seems to have mental illness tucked away in a little safe only to be touted out when some tragedy takes place.
Time has passed since the death of Robin Williams and it seems everyone has forgotten about mental illness(again). For awhile people “cared” about Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis(ALS). They proudly dumped buckets of ice water over their heads and made hefty donations. All this for a disease that only affects 30,000 people (in America) at a given time.
Over 11 million Americans suffer from serious mental illnesses. ALS, while sad, did not deserve the attention it received. That is not to say we shouldn’t research a cure, but far more people are battling mental illness and many are losing. People are homeless, in jail, addicted to drugs, dead, and unable to function in our society because of mental illness.
America chooses when to care about mental illness. There are many occasions when the media will address mental illness, usually when someone shoots up a school (stigmatizing those who suffer from them but that’s another issue) but nothing ever comes of it. Where is the walk for a cure or ice bucket challenge for depression? We need to start caring when its inconvenient.
Why? Because people who suffer don’t get a choice about when to care. They have to care everyday because they are suffering from debilitating symptoms. They need our help and in a country like America there is no reason why these people should be forced to suffer.
And if you know someone personally who is suffering from a mental illness, maybe you should reach out. Not when its convenient for you, but when the person needs you. Society changes one person at a time, so be that one person. You could change a life.