It’s Time to Erase the Stigma of Mental Illness


On Monday, August 11, the world lost a comedic genius in Robin Williams. Williams, 63, had suffered from depression for years. And we’re all left wondering how can someone that brought so much laughter into the world be fighting such a powerful demon as depression? And that’s the stigma of mental illness and depression that makes getting help for those who suffer. As a society, we know how to deal with broken bones or bad hearts or even cancer, but when it comes to mental health, we’re sorely lacking.

Depression is powerful. Depression says, “You’re not worth it.” Depression says, “No one cares.” Depression clouds your judgement. Depression effects your thoughts. It makes you feel all alone in a crowded room. It fills your head with doubts. It fills your heart with sadness. And, worst of all, it pulls you to the edge of the deep abyss where you can’t see any light or any way out.

Depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re rich. It doesn’t care if you’re poor. Depression doesn’t care if you’re black, white, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, urban or rural. It touches us all. And I should know: I have diagnosed clinical depression.

I know what it’s like to be the life of the party one minute and to be down in the dumps the next. I know what it’s like to put on a fake smile and pretend like everything is OK when, in reality, it took every ounce of energy to get out of bed that morning. I know what it’s like to have your mind betray you and tell you that you’re not deserving all the good things in your life. I know what it’s like to stare into that deep, dark abyss.

In a society that almost preaches self-reliance and a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, the hardest thing to do is to stick up your hand and admit that you need help. It’s tough to admit you’re weak and that you can’t overcome something alone. The toughest, yet best thing I have ever done is reach out for help. I learned to utilize my outstanding familial support system. I learned to talk to mental health professionals and get guidance on to manage this disease. And like someone dealing with high blood pressure or diabetes, I know that I have to take my medication daily. Despite what depression tells me, I know that I’m worth it.

I applaud people like the Chicago Bears’ Brandon Marshall, who has set up a namesake foundation to help erase the stigma associated with mental health issues.  In a world like professional football where it’s the order of the day to keep things inside and get ready for the next snap, it’s refreshing to see someone open up and be vulnerable, reach out for help and reach back to help others.

We all matter. YOU matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or an athlete, you count. Depression says, “you’re alone,” but you’re not. Depression says, “the world would be better without you,” but it won’t be. Be strong. Get help. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, in fact, it’s a sign of strength. It says, “I’m ready to take control of my life back and away from depression.” You are not alone.

If you need help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).