It’s been a year since the suicide of Robin Williams, and I still remember people on social media saying it’s time to discuss suicide and mental health. That if we finally acknowledge those suffering from mental illness, perhaps we can help someone else before it’s too late.
There’s a lot of truth to that statement, but I have to ask: Where did everyone go?
Like many topics, the conversation on mental illness, including issues like addiction and suicide, seems to only come up when a celebrity dies or comes forward about their own struggles.
Demi Lovato’s admission that she struggled with bipolar disorder and anorexia resulted in praise and a short discussion on self harm and mental illness. That conversation died not a year later, only to be resurrected when it was too late for somebody else.
The problem? For mentally ill people, this isn’t something that goes away.
Newsweek reports that mental illness affects 1 in 5 Americans, and for many this impacts their mood, relationships, and education.
Many private health insurance providers do not cover treatment and nearly 60 percent of mentally ill adults never find treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The mentally ill have to handle societal stigma that keeps them from reaching out, and often face humiliation via jokes and bullying. We cannot forget the jokes made about Amanda Bynes when she was dealing with her own mental illness.
How can we stop this conversation from dying again and again?
For me, the answer came last July, when supporters of Jared Padalecki’s “Always Keep Fighting” campaign held up candles during the Supernatural panel at San Diego Comic-Con.
This act of kindness touched many people, including Padalecki himself, and sparked multiple articles on his depression and the campaign itself. This was four months after Padalecki’s campaign launched and around the time when the campaign would fade from people’s memories.
Jared was smart to continue re-launching shirts and pushing the campaign forward, but in the end it was average people who made it relevant again.
This is how we can help the mentally ill, by allowing people to come forward and describe their struggles while showing solidarity for those suffering. Instead of making jokes about Amanda Bynes’ illness, we can discuss how she and other people are suffering.
We can discuss depression and causes of suicide, trying to save people’s lives while mourning those we already lost.
Finally, we should teach the mentally ill that it’s OK to express your struggles, realizing that they are the ones affected by the stigma, and make it as easy as we can for them to get help.
Mental illness is an important issue to tackle and affects millions. We need to continue talking about it.
Ashley Joyce-Nyack is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.