Have compassion for depression, not condemnation

Courtesy of Peggy Sirota for Parade Publications, Inc.
Courtesy of Peggy Sirota for Parade Publications, Inc.

By: Grace Wolford – Asst. Art Director

On Aug. 11, 2014, I received a text from my best friend informing me that the late, great, Robin Williams had been found dead in his home. Naturally, this upset me. His comedy and acting has been a staple in my life. From “Aladdin” to “Dead Poets Society,” Williams’s collection of work has always been inspiring, light hearted and kind. When Williams wasn’t warming our hearts with his comedy on the silver screen, he was devoting his time to many charities, including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Live Strong and more. As one of the founders of Comic Relief, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless, Williams helped raise over $80 million.

So, after hearing the news of his passing, I got on the Internet and saw lots of beautiful articles celebrating Williams’s life. Then I turned to social media and things got sour. I know what you’re thinking: “Social media is a terrible place, Grace, why would you seek comfort in it?!” I was having a weak moment. I saw horrible posts from peers condemning Williams as selfish and cowardly for taking his own life. The following are a few excerpts:

“Robin Williams dies and now the whole world thinks depression is a serious illness again, awesome =\”

“If you want to take your own life join the army or the peace corp p****”

“Suicide is so selfish”

“I get sad too, doesn’t mean I’m gonna kill myself”

Hopefully you are reading those anonymous quotes from your peers and thinking “Wow, how totally ignorant.” If you’re not, allow me to enlighten you: depression is a real mental illness, and a serious one that plagues millions of people every year.

Suicide is not selfish; suicide is indicative of a very serious illness. No one kills himself because he’s “a little sad.” Think for a second how desperate a person must have felt to want to take his or her own life. How alone he or she must have felt. How much pain (yes, physical pain, as well as emotional pain) he or she must have been in to want to end it all.

It’s 2014 you guys – we can’t keep writing off depression, anxiety, autism and other mental illnesses as selfish, weak and cowardly. We can’t keep blaming the victims. If you don’t suffer from a mental illness, then congratulations, but just because you have never felt the way others feel doesn’t mean their feelings don’t matter or aren’t real.

Mental illness is not made up. Just because you don’t know what it’s like to be depressed doesn’t mean you have to insult and hate on people who are. Everyone in the world is his or her own individual autonomous person with his or her own feelings and ideas, and everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about.

Maybe you really don’t understand mental illness, and that’s okay. It’s hard to understand something you have never experienced, but instead of writing off people who are depressed or ignoring their feelings, let’s try letting them know you care and then directing them to people who can help.

The University of Dayton has a wonderful counseling center full of trained professionals ready to help anyone that asks. There are also countless hotlines and online communities that you can turn to for help. I know college can be isolating and scary, but I hope that everyone (the UD community and beyond) knows that they are loved and wanted and that they don’t have to suffer alone.

And to Robin Williams, you were an amazing actor, philanthropist, comedian and person. My heart goes out to your family and friends during this devastating time. I hope you have found peace.

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