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Thursday, June 20
The Indiana Daily Student

Mental healthcare in America

From David Foster Wallace to Robin Williams, we seem to be losing our artists at an alarming rate.

But moreover, it’s an indicator of the weight our country places on diagnosing and treating patients with mental health issues resulting from severe psychoses or chemical imbalances.

Robin Williams’ suicide on Aug. 11 further emphasizes that the state of mental health care in this country is grave. How can a man so talented, so funny, so damn kind, be so unhappy?

You could blame the fans or people who sent him hate mail. You could imagine he surrounded himself with people who treated him poorly or even that he was just down in the dumps.

Or, you can take a hard, productive look at the country you live in.

On Sept. 12, 2008, the writer David Foster Wallace committed suicide by asphyxiation, much like Williams. Here you have a man who was the voice of a generation, who wrote Great American Novels such as “ Infinite Jest” and “ The Broom of the System ,” in addition to volumes of nonfiction, who was seemingly at the top of his career, ending it all because of depression.

Because depression doesn’t discriminate.

It doesn’t matter if you’re famous or successful or rich, it can still attack. Many times without warning or reason. Its attack is not like a heart attack or stroke. It’s a slow killer, and it’s often overlooked. Or, even worse, stigmatized.

Nobody’s ever been to a hospital because of heart disease or cancer and told “it’s all in your head” or “just get over it.”

But people with depression face this every single day in America.

Because of this stigma, many people with depression never seek treatment, yet because it is a disease , it gets progressively worse.

For many, it seems like the only solution is to end it all. Many do. To quote a line from the very underrated 2009 Robin Williams film “ World’s Greatest Dad ,” “Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”

But I think this line is misleading. Depression isn’t simply a “problem,” it’s an epidemic far more dangerous than many infectious diseases. And the reason it’s an epidemic is because we don’t recognize it as one.

Before penicillin, millions died from syphilis. We have “penicillin” for depression, if you will: it’s just not sought out like it should be.

The stigma of mental illness must be lifted, and soon, before suicide surpasses heart disease as the number one killer in America.

As of 2011, it’s No. 10.

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