I was on my way to dinner when the radio brought word that Robin Williams was dead, suspected of committing suicide.
My Facebook and Twitter feeds quickly filled up with notes about his talent, larger-than-life personality and the joy he brought to many. Inevitably, many of these posts also talked about the need for mental health support.
This is not my first post on mental health. I wrote two during mental health month: one on fighting the stigma and one on mental health public policy and funding. But my message today is simpler: We must stop waiting until tragedy strikes to flood the airwaves, our Facebook pages and our conversations with talk about this important issue.
People suffer from mental health-related problems daily, and many times they suffer quietly. I have never been as proud as I was when my beautiful, talented and caring best friend sought treatment and started to talk publicly about her personal fight with depression. She proudly declared on her blog “I am depressed and I’m happy.” It is this kind of strength we need more of in our daily lives. It is this kind of normalizing what is very common that will prevent not only tragedy but needless suffering.
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer or other health-related problems, we talk about it openly. We may ask for prayers, mention them in conversation and ask those with prior experience to help. That’s not the case with mental health.
There will be a lot of talk about suicide in the coming days. I suspect experts will make their rounds on the 24-hour news channels. And you can do more than post a Facebook message. With one in four Americans having mental-health issues, chances are you know someone who is facing depression, anxiety, substance or alcohol abuse or a related issue.
Pick up your phone and call them. Stop by their house. Remind them you care for them — not just in times of national discussion but every day. Have a real conversation to tell them that they are loved.
Today, we are mourning the loss of a great entertainer, but every day families across our nation mourn their own losses. It’s past time we talk about the mother, brother, sister and sons who are suffering and offer support before another family is forced to mourn their loss.
Apryl Marie Fogel is a new Alabama resident who works as a conservative political activist.