There Is A Way Beyond Darkness
By Barbara Mayer
Sedona AZ (August 14, 2014) – Many of us will never have to worry about becoming celebrities, yet for some people who live in that world, the pressures of fame and fortune can also reach into the darker side of depression – which does not care how much fame or money anyone has.
The suicide of comic genius Robin Williams has touched many of us with near disbelief. He was the man of joy and laughter. He was the master of comedy who could help us forget the pressures and pains of just being human. True, he spoke often of his bouts with depression, but he was always in recovery. At least that’s we thought. So now we struggle to comprehend what torture really existed inside Williams’ troubled mind. What depression became so intense that it made him feel there was no way out beyond the darkness which he chose. We mourn his loss, yes. Yet perhaps his death might force us to face the true mental illness of severe depression in our own lives, or in the lives of people we deeply love. Our own tears are just as real as the tears of a clown, and this may be our time to acknowledge them and seek help beyond the darkness of suicide. There is another way.
There’s that word again. Depression. It’s a word too often used lightly when we are sad about something trivial, or when we are just looking for someone to comfort us. The severe depression Williams fought for years, and which finally claimed his life, however, is nothing less than a potential killer. In his case it was the mental illness of depression which took this gifted man’s life. It is also the same demon of severe depression which is touching us and our neighbors right here in Sedona and the Verde Valley.
With the media now reminding us the suicide rate nationwide among senior citizens is on the rise, this is an area of great concern. There is also cause for alarm in our young people, who feel the pressure of life in the fast lane — which society is now becoming — is too much for them to handle. Depression is a mental illness of our times, and it can never been taken lightly.
No one is immune. There may come a time when our normal tendency to get upset or depressed about something moves from the occasional hard look at reality as we think we see it – to the more serious illness of full blown depression which needs care and help. Just seeing the suffering of so many in the world – as well as our own individual concerns — is enough to cause some kind of depression in many of us.
As sure as depression is a killer, however, there is one more sure fact: Hope and help are available. Each one of us needs to stay aware that there are caring and highly trained professionals right here in our own area. They have dedicated their lives to keep our lives positive and mentally strong. There are also signs which can indicate professional help is needed immediately. Some of these include:
- Harm to self by attempting suicide, engaging in self-injury, attempting extreme weight loss, or abusing substances.
- Extreme distress, such as a panic attack or reaction to a traumatic event.
- Distressing behavior, such as a loss of touch with reality or aggression.
Free training in mental health first aid is available locally through Spectrum Healthcare. This training helps people recognize the signs and symptoms of developing mental health problems. Also, the Spectrum Healthcare Crisis Hotline can be reached any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days of the week. Help is always available by calling 928-634-2236.
Can we look within ourselves and around us with honest caring? If we see any signs of depression growing and the human psyche slipping in ourselves or anyone we love, the word is – seek help – and seek it soon.
Let us all be well. And when we are not, let us be wise enough to seek the help which is waiting to bring us back to the fullness of our lives. Each one of us is definitely worth that effort.
Barbara Mayer is a poet, author and interfaith/interspiritual minister who lives, writes and shares the Spirit in Sedona, Arizona.
Barbara speaks of the darkness of the soul; of those who suffer; of the help and hope for those in need. Look out for one another, be kind.
Robin Williams: “Oh Captain, my Captain …..” – Dead Poets Society (1989) –
O Captain My Captain – Walt Whitman
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills,
For you the bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths — for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning, –
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
“To be, or not to be—” he was, and then not, and we miss him.
(quote is from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet)
I don’t want to speculate about why Robin Williams took his life. People trying to tie it to the vicissitudes of his career, need to stop. Depression in this day and age is that powerful. If it finds you in the wrong place at the wrong time, it can swallow you whole. It’s happened to people I’ve known, and those I wished I had known. It’s happened to Robin Williams. I hope if nothing else that people in a similar circumstance reach for a phone, instead of whatever instrument of death is handy. I also hope that Robin Williams’ family knows that their dad was truly loved. Not just for his art, but for the small anonymous moments that revealed who he actually was when the applause stopped. Not alone, when I wish I’d been able to simply thank him for gracing our lives with a dollop of magic.
Thanks to Barbara Mayer for a beautiful article and spotlight on people living with mental health issues. I’m honored to facilitate the monthly meetings for the Mental Health Coalition Valley (www.mhcvv.org) and I’ve learned a lot about the need for more awareness and more services in Arizona. Instead we seem to be allocating more money to jails. Yavapai County representatives are visiting our local communities asking voters in November to vote for an additional 1/4 cent sales tax to construct a new jail in Prescott and for maintenance of Prescott and Camp Verde jails. Yet something like 64% of those incarcerated in our jails suffer from mental health issues! Wouldn’t our money be better spent on health facilities to treat the patients with mental health issues rather than criminalizing them? Somehow our priorities seem clouded. I hope the public and our officials pay more attention to this critical mental health need in our county and our state and take appropriates steps to help our family members, neighbors and friends who suffer from mental health issues.
I don’t believe for ONE minute that Robin Williams killed himself. Randy Quaid blew the whistle on the star-whacker machinery years ago – go Google it. Look at his movies – especially World’s Greatest Dad. Life imitating art? Too many questions, not enough answers. We live in a world that’s upside down.
Oh yes, by all means – go get help for your depression – says the pharmaceutical industry! Take some SSRI type drugs. If you didn’t feel like killing yourself before the medication, you’ll certainly feel like it afterwards. Go check out SSRIstories.com – ALL of the shooters in mass murders had one thing in common – they were all whacked out on drugs. Our world is upside-down.
Thanks Barbara Mayer for your thoughtful words on an important topic. And my gratitude to Barbara Litrell for your tireless efforts to better our community and to shine an intelligent light on the issue of mental illness. There was a recent report put out by the Treatment Advocacy Center that provided some important information, such as U.S. prisons and jails house 10 times more mentally ill Americans than in state psychiatric hospitals. Those individuals’ conditions often deteriorate while they are incarcerated. Treatment for mental illness is a right affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Dr. Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center stated “the lack of treatment for seriously ill inmates is inhumane and should not be allowed in a civilized society.” In 2012, there was an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness in U.S. prisons and jails. There were only 35,000 mentally ill individuals in state psychiatric hospitals. According to the report, mentally ill prisoners are often victimized or sent to solitary confinement, and they attempt suicide at disproportionate rates. I find this unacceptable and as a member of the Mental Health Coalition of the Verde Valley I will continue to work towards bettering the lives of those under served.
In any emergency an early call is the best call. Barbara Mayer provided the 24-hour help line 928-634-2236. Get help coming while you cope with the emergency, physical or mental. Spectrum will send someone to your home if needed. Don’t wait – time is precious when things are unfolding in a bad way. Barbara Littrell and Audrey Dorfman both mentioned the Mental Health Coalition Verde Valley (www.mhcvv.org) and the important work that is going on. Consider joining the Coalition: all are welcome and you need not be a health care professional. Everyone has something to contribute.
Thank you, Barbara Mayer, for your excellent article that is timely not just because of recent events but also because you bring up the fact that depression can happen to anyone, at any time, and more importantly that help is available. Our society needs to focus on the number of people who struggle with mental illness on a daily basis. Mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible. Thank you also to Barbara Litrell for her leadership of the Mental Health Coalition Verde Valley. As a member of this group, I strongly support the goals of the Coalition and the community projects we are working on. Please go to http://www.mhcvv.org to obtain more information.