MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — His closest friends say Robin Williams would often use humor to hide his depression, which made it harder to detect.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are very good at hiding what they’re feeling inside.
Nearly 60 million people experience a mental health condition every year. But only a fraction of those conditions are ever detected.
The man who began his on-camera career as Mork the alien, grew into one of the most talented actors in Hollywood. He starred in movies like “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Dead Poet’s Society.”
Over the years, Williams used drugs and alcohol to mask his depression. He was a man in the spotlight, but he was fighting the same battle as millions of others.
“Generally, they are feeling hopeless,” said Tim Burkett, the CEO of People Incorporated. “They feel like the world is bleak and they are by themselves.”
People Incorporated is a nonprofit that helps people with mental illness.
Burkett’s own brother died from suicide after a long battle with depression.
“Among the different categories of mental illness, it’s the most common,” Burkett said.
Burkett said about one in four people will have some form of mental illness in their lives, most likely depression. And often there are signs and symptoms.
“If you notice that they are doing a lot of drugs or alcohol, pay attention to the underlying. Is there some hopelessness? Is there some feeling that they don’t want to get up in the morning? Those are key signs,” Burkett said.
Changes in sleep or eating habits are other symptoms. So is a lack of interest in doing things they used to enjoy. But Burkett says it is possible to beat depression, as long as there is a commitment to a cure.
“The research is very clear that it’s a combination of counseling and medication that’s the best cure, quote on quote, for clinical depression,” Burkett said.
And often times Burkett said it starts with a simple conversation, asking someone how they are doing if they seem down.
There are also a number of hotlines that can help.
The good news, he said, is that we understand it far better than we used to.