As the world connects on a global scale digital natives have been able to share their opinions and experiences allowing for a better understanding of previously unmentioned issues. A prevalent advancement is the detachment of a certain stigma against mental illnesses. However it seems that it is only discussed on a major scale when someone has resorted to taking their own life.
The discussion has been reignited due to the tragic death of Robin Williams who allegedly took his own life after fighting an ongoing battle with depression.
Robin Williams is unfortunately a great example of why mental illness has a stigma attached to it. But not the stigma so fervently discussed. In a 2011 interview with the Project in Australia, Williams discussed the worlds expectations of him.
“People expect me to kind of be on all the time. A lady walked up to me at an airport one time and I forget where it was and she said ‘be zany’,” he said.
This shows what kind of guilt is attached with mental illness. Not only was he suffering an inner anguish, and constantly attempting to understand his impalpable emotions, but he also had millions of people, including both fans and critics, expecting him to be happy and funny all of the time due to his established career. This creates an added emotion of guilt due to not being able to feel funny, happy, and on all of the time.
While everyone believes that the stigma attached to mental illnesses is the perceived notion of being a cop out or people just being “insensitive”, now that it is highly recognised that it is a serious condition many believe the stigma has been removed. However with this acknowledgement another kind of stigma has been attached, which involves many believing if they lead a comfortable lifestyle, have a great family, and beautiful friends they must be happy. If they are funny, or iconic, or a celebrity, they must be happy. If they are attractive, skinny and have a great personality, they must be happy.
Mental illness can affect anyone from any walk of life and despite a pleasing exterior view their interior may not be so gratifying. Anyone could be suffering an inner battle, so to remove this stigma understanding what meets the eye may be a lie is key.
I am unsure what kind of emotions Williams was battling but I am sure that I myself suffered from a battle with mental illness. For six to seven years I suffered with an eating disorder which consumed my life. Although I had an amazing family, a large group of friends, and was given unlimited opportunities, I was still ultimately overtaken by this mental illness and I could not help how I felt despite the logic being written out for me. Feelings and logic are two different things which many do need to recognise.
Robin Williams’ 2011 Interview on the Project, Australia
My experience with overcoming an eating disorder