Depression is everywhere and Robin Williams is the latest high profile victim of this terrible disorder.
Sadly, while on a train from Montreal to Kingston Ontario (Canada), I learnt of Robin Williams' suicide. His assistant said he had been battling severe depression, on top of his long standing struggle with alcohol and drugs. Depression affects every corner of society; rich and poor, famous and ordinary.
Depression is a disorder that distorts your view of things. It creates the fertile ground in which dark, negative, painful and, yet, completely false beliefs about yourself are created and developed. These false beliefs are nourished and further reinforced by secret shame, and are quite impervious to good wishes, kindness and generosity. It doesn't matter who you are, depression and anxiety can take a strong hold, if you're not vigilant.
When you struggle with depression it can seem like being in a deep canyon that channels you further and further into deeper and darker places until, eventually, you reach a place where the walls are high and the road is narrow with little or no light to guide you on your path. In this dark place, the extreme thought erupts that there is no way forward and to battle further would be pointless because it will only get harder and darker. Such thoughts lead to a point where there is little else to see and seemingly no further progress to be made. The options that, in fact, are really and truly available to you, now are well and truly hidden from you in that dark moment of decision.
There is so much sadness when someone takes their own life. Suicide is an act taken out of desperation. There are always options in life but, suicide is born from the feeling that there is no other option but death. The escape of death seems the only solution to desperately painful emotions.
My mind is cast back to my first and most important mentor Professor Petruska Clarkson. She was the woman who helped me to formulate my own identity as a psychologist and as a therapist. Also, I know she touched the lives of countless other people over the years she was with us. Petruska committed suicide on 10th July 2006.
I didn't know Robin Williams but, like many, I have seen all of his films and, as is often the way with movie stars, we feel as though we know them because they come into our homes and our lives, and they entertain us. I did know Petruska and I still think of her often. Tragically, I think suicide is an act that closes a door for one person but leaves a door open permanently for those left behind.
A selection of Robin Williams work