What an irony that a person who brought joy, laughter, and even inspiration to millions of people now brings us together in sorrow. Robin Williams was exuberant. He was a genius. He had achieved almost unimaginable success. But none of his gifts could help him conquer the behavioral health disorders that affected his life.
Upon hearing the news about Mr. Williams, our organization’s new Chief Information Officer (new to the field of behavioral health) asked what we could do to increase awareness, to encourage treatment. He thought that perhaps we should ramp up our website to include more information to promote the hope of recovery. His logic was that if people were aware that a person of William’s stature could be affected by a serious mental illness, then perhaps there would be less stigma and less reluctance to seek care. True, I thought, but could this tragedy also have an opposite effect? Could it be that a person experiencing a behavioral health crisis might instead think, “If Robin Williams, with all his brilliance and with all his resources couldn’t get better, what hope do I have?”
It’s time to turn up the volume on the recovery message.
In tribute to Mr. Williams—and to all those who face behavioral health challenges each and every day—we professionals need to take a deep breath, find new energy and redouble our efforts. Even after all these years, the 1999 Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General message still rings true: “The extensive literature that the Surgeon General’s report reviews and summarizes leads to the conclusion that a range of treatments of documented efficacy exists for most mental disorders. Based on this finding, the report’s principal recommendation to the American people is to seek help if you have a mental health problem or think you have symptoms of a mental disorder.”
It’s as true today as it was 15 years ago. If only we had a "Mork" to help us spread the word.