You Are Not Alone: Battling Indifference

Like many children born in the 70’s, I grew up in a community that didn’t speak about depression or mental illness. Yet, my mother seemed to have a different perspective than most people. She taught me mental illness, like physical illness, is nothing to be ashamed of, nor hidden. If you are struggling, you seek help. Simple as that. It is a mindset I wish our society could embrace – one of understanding and compassion, rather than indifference, fear, and silent suffering.

Robin Williams

By Eva Rinaldi (Flickr: Robin Williams) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I have read a lot of comments online about the recent suicide of the beloved Robin Williams – some kind, some bewildered, some angry. Everyone has their own grieving process, but I have a hard time reading comments written by people who are angry at Williams, or feel he was selfish. My heart breaks at the thought of him so alone in his mind that he felt the only way out of his darkness was through death.

Just over a year ago a friend of ours took his own life. He was the happiest guy you could think of – always smiling – the last person anyone would have expected to commit suicide. While some people were outraged at his “selfish” act, I was heartbroken. Heartbroken that I had no idea he was in pain, and even more heartbroken that he was unable to share that pain with others. I believe you have to be in a very dark, lonely place to take your own life. Getting angry at someone for succumbing to their depression or mental illness is like getting mad at someone for dying from cancer.

Everyone struggles at some point or another. There is no need to compare the depth or magnitude of your pain with anyone else’s – regardless of the source or intensity, everyone has faced difficult times. The question is, why don’t we talk about it more? Why do we so often choose to isolate ourselves and our pain? Why do we cast off those who are struggling as “weak” instead of reaching out to help them?

Rather than ostracize or dismiss those around us who are grappling with pain, grief, depression, mental illness, or addiction, what if we took a little more time to see people as they are – to affirm their humanity?

If we’re going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference. – Robin Williams as Patch Adams

Perhaps if more people understood mental illness, like physical illness, is nothing to be ashamed of, we as a society would be more inclined to seek help in times of need.

So my message to everyone – you are not alone. Chances are, what you are feeling (depression, anxiety, postpartum, addiction, etc.) has been felt by someone else in your life at some point or another. Holding in your feelings only serves to isolate you further. Talk to someone. If you feel like you have no one with whom you can share your burden, then contact an organization like the National Suicide Hotline. Trained counselors are available to talk 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

Additional Resources

If you see someone struggling – reach out to them. Don’t be afraid to point them in the direction of professional help. Oftentimes when in a state of despair, seeking help for ourselves is too much a challenge to surmount. Though the easy route is indifference to others’ burdens, extend your hands and help them lift their unbearable weight.

Battling Indifference

About Jen

Outdoor adventurer & traveler. Writer. Photographer. Blogger gayfamilytrips.com. Com Professor. Wife. Mom of twins plus one.

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3 Responses to You Are Not Alone: Battling Indifference

  1. Meghan J. Ward August 15, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    I admire the tough topics you tackle through your blog, Jen, and for having the courage to put these kinds of thoughts out there. I recently reached out to a friend who is battling some depression, and while I didn’t feel like I had much energy that day to ‘deal’ with it, I chose to just create space for her and to listen. Just knowing someone is listening can make a big difference to those who are struggling – to know their feelings are validated and understood. I am deeply saddened by the news of Robin Williams’ death, and hope his death can help raise more awareness of the realities of mental illness.

  2. Melinda Kinsman August 16, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    Well put. I try not to follow the outrageous comments sometimes made by people at such times. Whatever their private religious beliefs may be, it shows no compassion for the family left behind to offer up anything but sincere sympathy.

  3. Mary Walsh August 19, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Jen, I was glad you expressed such sincere support for Robin Williams. My own experience with battling depression in my life has been that during the years I was in therapy I felt terribly isolated from others . I was afraid to talk about it because I didn’t know whether I would get support or judgment. I believe seeking counseling when you need it is an incredibly brave act. The process of looking within was at times for me quite painful, and I had to work hard to keep believing I was going to feel better eventually. In looking back, I would go through all those years of struggle willingly again because I am a much happier person now than I was before therapy. Thank you for bringing such an important topic out in the open.

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