In light of the sad loss of actor/comic Robin Williams yesterday, the internet has been flooded with all sorts of information about depression, including many calls for people to seek help if they need it. This is wonderful and important, but I feel like this is also the sort of thing that happens whenever a public figure commits suicide or announces a history of depression, and what we truly need is a more ongoing openness in the face of this illness. People don’t only need to seek help the week someone else succumbs to their own depression; they need to feel able to talk to someone whenever they need the assistance. And this is particularly important for anyone suffering from depression in a void.
There have been suggestions that creative types — writers, actors, artists, etc. — are more prone to depression because they are more sensitive or their work requires them to mine their demons or for whatever other reason. Maybe this is true, but I suspect not. All sorts of people suffer from depression — far more than you might suspect — and I don’t believe it has anything to do with what they’ve chosen for a career. It’s an illness, not a side effect.
However, many creatives spend time isolated — writers or artists working alone, actors with down time between parts — and so I think they sometimes have (or feel they have) less of a support system than someone with an office filled with coworkers. The same is true of people who live alone, travel alone frequently for business, and so on. Depression isolates a person all by itself, making it difficult to reach out for assistance for so many reasons, and so if that person is also isolated in reality, they have even less of a chance of seeking help from someone.
So yes, please reach out if you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, even if it’s only a fleeting thought. The suicide prevention lifeline in the U.S. is 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and I’m certain there are similar helplines in other countries. The only way to find a solution to your problems, no matter how impossible they seem, is to remain in the game.
But for those of you who know people who might be depressed, please make an effort to reach out to them. You can’t fix them or cure them or tell them much that will register, because a depressed person’s brain will filter your words and hear what they believe rather than what you say. But, what you can do is remind them that you are there for them and that they have a support system. Check in just because you care. Be present in their lives so that, even when their brains are insisting they are alone, some small part of them might still realize that you want them in your life.