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Behind the Laughter

As the world absorbs the devastating loss of funny-man Robin Williams, we are reminded once again of the seriousness of mental illness and the indiscriminate way it impacts society. It is reported that Williams suffered from severe depression and had attended rehab more than once for substance abuse problems. Nearly 14.8 million Americans suffer from depression and over 38,000 people end their lives by suicide each year.

Williams would often open up about his substance use and was even quoted as saying, “It might have been helpful just to learn certain things about how to, you know, deal with stress,” Williams said. “I dealt with it with alcohol. Then you realize no, that does not help you my friend that does not help deal with the situation.” However, his struggles with depression were much less evident.

A person’s internal struggles are not always obvious, and can be hidden under a smile or masked by a laugh. However, there are signs you can look for if you feel you or a loved one could be suffering from depression. Some of these signs include:
•    Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
•    Trouble  concentrating
•    Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
•    Inability to control negative thoughts
•    Loss of appetite or increased appetite
•    More irritable, short-tempered, or  aggressive than usual
•    Consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behavior

If you see any of these signs, you need to encourage the person to seek the help of a mental health professional. Help can be found at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or in an emergency dial 911.

Williams was famous for making others laugh, so it’s no doubt surprising to learn that he suffered from such a sad, lonely and too often deadly disease.  My only hope in the midst of this tragedy is that it will shine a spotlight on mental illness and force others to have the much needed conversation around the topic. Maybe through his death, we will witness the demise of stigma and the beginning of open dialogue.

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About Jill Sauser, Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation
Jill has a B.S. in Journalism (PR/Advertising) and a Minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. During her time at UNO, she completed a two year PR practicum program where she worked with numerous nonprofit clients including the MS Society, The Archdiocese of Omaha, and the YWCA. Jill joined The Kim Foundation as Project Coordinator in April 2014.