Mental Illness: It’s time to talk…

This morning, I skipped my morning run to finish reading Peter Pan. When I finished the last word, I commented to my husband that reading the book made me appreciate one of my favorite movies, Hook, even more for all the amazing details from the original story that appeared in this very modern retelling. And of course, at the center of this movie is the rivalry between Hook and Pan, portrayed so magnificently by Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams.

So I join the ranks of millions who are shocked and saddened by the death of this consummate funnyman. But I’m also angry. I’m angry because we as a community are going to share a million hilarious YouTube clips, funny quotes, and memorials, but we’re not going talk about what took this brilliant man from the Earth too soon. We’re not going to talk about mental illness.

If we’re not going to talk about it when the mentally ill commit mass murder, then why on Earth would we talk about it now when it’s so much easier to just quote Good Will Hunting (whose award winning sound-track, by the way, was created by another victim of mental illness, Elliott Smith) and go about our business?

This summer, I lost my oldest brother to complications from life-long untreated alcoholism. Although his individual struggle is over, the repercussions of his alcoholism will reverberate through our family–especially through the lives of his four children and his grandchildren–for many years.

I feel such sadness for Robin Williams’ wife and children, and for his close friends and extended family. I wish them privacy and peace during an awful time. But for the rest of us, I wish for the strength to put aside the fears, the stigmas, and the discomfort that come with talking about what we can do as countries, as governments, as families, as communities, to keep these people from feeling so isolated and alone that the only way out they can envision involves their tragic, lonely death.

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