Today I woke to the terribly sad news that actor & comic genius Robin Williams had died, in fact, he'd taken his own life. To lose anyone so young and so brilliant is an utter tragedy but to learn that their untimely death was caused by their own hand is just all the more heart breaking.
Mental health can affect anyone - and it does affect a hell of a lot of people. It's terribly frustrating that there is still such taboo surrounding mental illness - People fear it, they stigmatise it and seem totally able to talk about it.
Various people close to me, including myself have at a time in their life fought the suffocating grip of depression. For me, it was brought on in part by the loss of someone I loved more than anything in this world. For many, it's an illness that rears its ugly head for no 'reason' at all - and that's because depression doesn't need a reason - it isn't something you can just snap out of and it certainly isn't something you choose to sink into. It's an illness, just like Diabetes, just like Crohns disease, just like any other condition that you don't choose to have.
At my darkest time, when I was at rock bottom myself, unfortunately I lost several of my closest friends, when I needed them the most because they were completely unable to understand or empathise.
Many, many famous faces too - people who appear to 'have it all' suffer from depression. Notably the wonderfully talented and incredibly popular Stephen Fry. He has spoken openly many many times about his struggle, something he said that really struck a cord with me is this:
"If you know someone who is depressed, pleased resolve to never ask them why. Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, the lethargy, the hopelessness and loneliness they are going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It's hard to be a friend to someone who's depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do." - Stephen Fry.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I've suffered, no one should be - it's not something to be ashamed of at all. In fact, I feel overwhelmingly thankful to those who were there for me during my darkest hours, and proud of myself for making it through to the other side. Don't get me wrong, I still do have dark days where I worry that I'm slipping back to that place - but I know that I have people around me who really do care that I can turn to when I need them.
Depression is something we need to try to comprehend, even if we don't understand it - so that we can get past this stigma and support those who really, really need an arm around them, because life is too precious, and too short as it is - to lose any more wonderful people to this terrible illness.
Maybe just take a moment today to let those close to you know just how much you love them, and that you'll be there for them, always - because you never know, that little message to say you care might just make the world of difference...
If you, or someone you love is currently fighting mental illness, here are some links that you may find useful:
Mood GYM: I was recommended this site to teach myself CBT when I was suffering from depression, it's free and it gave me a lot of good tools to recognise when I was getting stuck in certain thought cycles, and how to break those patterns of behaviour.
Mind: These guys are the biggest Mental Health charity in the UK - they offer fantastic support to both those suffering from mental illness and the friends and families of those affected. Their website also contains a wealth of useful information surrounding mental health too.
The Samaritans: There to support and to listen, when you need it most, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There will always be someone totally impartial, totally non-judgemental and totally caring to listen and to help.
"Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary."
John Keating, DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989).