This morning news has traveled around the globe of the death of Robin Williams. Already, mixed with the sadness, the “social sneer” has appeared. Robin Williams was weak. He was selfish. How could he do this to his family? What a jerk, to only think of himself. On and on. On his death certificate it will read that Robin died from suicide due to asphyxiation. It will not list the actual cause of death. Officially no one ever dies from mental illness.
According to the Center for Disease Control 1,500 Americans die every day from cancer. 1 in 4 deaths can be attributed annually to heart disease. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, adults suffering from a serious mental illness die, on average, 25 years before a mentally healthy person. And yet no one dies from mental illness.
If someone shoots himself in the head, his cause of death will be “self inflicted gunshot wound”, even though everyone knew he suffered from Depression. Rather than face the social stigma of a “crazy” diagnosis, some of the mentally ill self-medicate. If someone drinks themselves to death, the contributing factor will be alcoholism, not schizophrenia. Obesity is a common side-effect to many psychiatric medications. Cause of death? Heart attack, not Bipolar.
The idea of how a “Mental Illness” is diagnosed has come under fire of late. There’s a legitimate debate to be had about exactly what is “mentally ill” in a world of for-profit medicine. And of course not all alcoholics or obese people are mentally ill. Right now let’s stay focused on just this fact – no one dies from mental illness. Which makes the tears of this clown particularly tragic. If you want to honor this man who brought the world so much happiness, please start a conversation about mental illness. It’s time to be rid of the social stigma surrounding this issue.
Goodbye Robin Williams. I’ll miss you.