By now the world knows that Robin Williams suffered bi-polar disease, formerly called manic-depression. Mental illness is a neurological disorder. The disease takes a terrible toll on the sufferers, and on those around them. For those of us who do not have it, we cannot grasp fully what it is like.

 For decades, I have known that this actor, and many other celebrities, suffer from bi-polar or other mental illnesses. Whenever I saw him in a movie or in an interview, I marveled at how he could carry on so courageously while he felt so terrible inside. At the same time, I wished that Robin Williams, and all others with mental illness could get adequate help. While he likely was not suffering every minute, he demonstrated many times when he was obsessively funny, even when it was unnecessary. I witnessed the mask of smiles when they were driven by pain.

 So beloved, Robin Williams’ untimely death has deeply grieved the nation. A gift to the world, he used his talent tirelessly and generously for the benefit of others. Meanwhile, he was battling internal challenges much of the time.

 In the midst of national sadness, will we collectively forget about the disease that killed him? Or will we inquire into what can be done to help others that face the same challenges?

If Robin Williams’ desperate cry for freedom from his pain sets off a national dialogue about bi-polar disorder and other neurological problems, his death will make a difference.  He represents millions of people whose neurological diseases plague people throughout the world.

Obviously, if a rich and famous person can suffer so much without proper help, think how difficult it is for the millions of not-so-rich-and-famous to get through life.  Part of the reason that this disease is under-funded and under-valued is that we do not have the collective will to even deal with mental illness.

Each of us needs to be honest with ourselves to see where we are stuck in this mindset that the problem of mental illness is in other people, on the streets, in homeless shelters.  We think the problem is always away from us.  Besides, we think the problem of mental illness cannot be here in front of us, not in our family, not in our neighborhood. We do not see it, or hear it. And if we do see or hear it, we blame the one who suffers. “They should do better.”  “They are losers.” “They are stupid or lazy,” we think to ourselves. “They” are not like us, we want to think. Yet, “they” are us. “They” are us with a brain disorder that they cannot control. And they very often cannot get adequate medical help, as someone with heart disease would expect. Too often sufferers blame themselves for their disorder.

As a society, we have a stigma attached to mental illness. Let’s be honest, it is considered shameful. This stigma remains even though many celebrities have shared their struggles, like Catherine Zeta Jones, Jim Carrey, Carrie Fisher, Patty Duke, Drew Carey, Dick Clark, and hundreds of others.  We do not know what more they would be capable of if they did not have to deal with a neurological disorder.  It is amazing what some people manage to do despite the struggle.

To continue, go to: http://mentallyillparents.com/index.php/2014/08/14/robin-williams-part-2

 

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