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Williams death calls attention to mental illness
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Forsyth County News

We were watching the news Monday when they broke in to alert us to the death of Robin Williams.

Within minutes, newscasters were reporting it was likely a suicide. As the reports continued, it was revealed that Williams had battled many demons in his life, including depression and addictions.

So very sad to hear. The world lost such an amazing talent.

Like many of you, I grew up watching the popular sitcom “Mork and Mindy.” I absolutely loved Williams as the adorable alien Mork.

Williams certainly showed his talent as a stand-up comedian, comedic actor and serious actor, as in a few of my favorites “Dead Poets Society” and “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor.

Of course, his comedic roles were legendary. Our children loved “Aladdin,” in which Williams was the voice of the hilarious Genie. Then, “Mrs. Doubtfire” came out the next year. We all still love that movie.

“Jumangi” was released in 1995, and that soon became another family favorite. Of course, anybody with children loved the movie “Night at the Museum,” in which Williams played Theodore Roosevelt.

According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.

Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how a person feels, thinks and behaves. And it can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

People suffering from mental illness may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make them feel as if life isn’t worth living.

Depression and mental illness are mysteries to most of us. People often think depression is something we should just “deal with.”

If you have ever suffered from depression or know someone who has, you understand that it’s not that easy.

Most people have known someone who committed suicide, or at least know someone who knew someone who did.

I was introduced to the tragedy at age 15, when a boy I really liked took his own life. He was popular, extremely cute and also quite talented as a drummer. He loved music and had numerous friends.

From the outside looking in, he certainly seemed to have had it all. When I heard the news I was beyond stunned.

I was also so sad, but just couldn’t understand why someone would do that.

When tragedies like this happen, we all tend to reflect on the question of why.

Why would someone so successful and talented, who had no worries of money or other problems that we might think would push someone over the edge, take their own life? What could possibly be so bad?

That is really the root of depression and mental illness, isn’t it? We can’t truly understand it, but we can be supportive of those in our lives who may be struggling with depression.

I spoke with Linda Fitzwater, the president of the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. This is a wonderful resource in our community that many readers may not know about.

Linda stressed that as a society, we should all be more aware of those suffering from depression.

“One in four adults suffers from some sort of mental illness,” she said. “So often, when a family member has a mental illness, the rest of the family tends to go into the closet and not want to deal with the situation.”

Linda went on to explain that NAMI provides support groups for both the person with the illness and for family members.

“NAMI is such a great support system,” she said. “We strive to educate the public so they know how to help their loved ones get the help they need.”

In addition to the support groups, NAMI holds a monthly educational meeting for the public.

On the third Tuesday of every month, the organization welcomes a different guest speaker who specializes in conditions associated with mental illness. The meeting is held at the United Way office on Elm Street in Cumming.

I also asked Linda why it seems any time someone commits suicide, there is talk of their drug or alcohol addiction. I know of people who did not have addictions, but took their own lives.

Linda explained that someone with mental illness may not — for a variety of reasons — get the medication they need.

“There is such a stigma,” she said. “People often don’t get the help they need, or they might not be able to afford treatment and medication. This often leads to people self-medicating, with drugs or alcohol or both.”

If you suffer from depression or know someone who does, please help spread the word about NAMI.

Even if that person won’t go to a meeting, you can attend and learn how you can help him or her get help.

For more information about NAMI, please check out its web site at


Adlen Robinson is the author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at