Like the carpenters who have no homes of their own, the farmers who never have enough on the table to eat or the waiters who have never tried the food they serve, Robin Williams probably lacked what he so generously gave viewers: inspiration, laughter and assurance that somebody understood what he was going through.
Having followed the series "Mork and Mindy" in my youth, laughed at "Good Morning, Vietnam," shed tears as I watched "The Bicentennial Man" and "Mrs. Doubtfire," held my breath when "Hook" took Peter’s children, and at each turn they took on the "Jumanji" board and was inspired by "Good Will Hunting" and "Dead Poets’ Society," I felt sad when I first heard the news of his death—and sadder still when I found out how he died. To hear that someone who has consistently brought happiness and inspiration to people he did not even know can be disconcerting.
There have been times when I felt sad without knowing why. I would wake up in tears, not remembering what I dreamt about. I guess it was hormonal. I always thought we Filipinos are so resilient that few of us really get depressed. In fact, a 2012 CNN report ranked the Philippines 8th among the happiest countries in the world. But some say otherwise.
Depression and Suicide
An October 12, 2012 post by Ilda on Get Real Philippines the 2012 World Happiness Report ranked the Philippines 103rd among 155 countries, making it one of Southeast Asia’s least happy.
The same post said that 2011 data from the World Health Organization says that the Philippines has the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia and that there are 93 suicides for every 100,000 Filipinos.
The World Happiness Report was commissioned by the United Nations Conference on Happiness and comes out every year. The research is done by the Earth Institute of Columbia University.
“Woeful Suicide,” an article on the Department of Health website cited a 2004 World Health Organization study as saying that the Philippines has the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia. Over 4.5 million cases of depression were reported—meaning 3 percent of all Filipinos were “clinically diagnosed as depressed”.
The study also said that of 90 Filipinos suffering from depression, only a third seek help. A third will just bear the symptoms while the rest would not even know they are depressed.
SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) explains the link between depression and suicide:
"As depression deepens and takes over the body and mind, the pain of depression often becomes overwhelming. The chemical imbalance and deep despair can lead the brain to try and find ways to end the pain. This is when suicidal thinking begins. Depressive illnesses can distort thinking such that a person can’t think clearly or rationally. The illness can cause thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness, which may lead to suicidal thoughts."
There is Hope… Always!
The DOH article mentioned earlier said that a 2007 survey showed that of 900 teenagers, 15 tried to take their own lives. It further enumerated suicides it called “high profile” cases and pointed out that many others remain unreported for different reasons.
A study made between 1974 and 2005 by the University of Bristol’s Maria Theresa Redaniel and David Gunndell along with May Antonnette Lebanan-Dalida of the University of the Philippines-Manila revealed that more men committed suicide than women, and was relatively more common among adolescents and young adults, unlike in other countries where suicide rates are higher among older people.
A 2012 Philippine Daily Inquirer article noted that suicides aged 24 or younger have increased in the past 21 years. Citing a survey of 2008-2009 hospital and police records, the same article said that the majority of the 300 or so cases happened at home in summer, especially during the Lenten season.
According to Dr. Dinah Nadera, a psychiatrist and associate professor of the University of the Philippines, not all suicide cases were caused by depression, but that there are other factors like low income and unemployment, terminal illness and even marital situations that may push people to take their own lives.
Depression is a mental disorder that has claimed many lives. It needs to be openly discussed. It affects all kinds of people—rich and poor, celebrities and ordinary folk. It can be treated and even prevented. Perhaps, if depression had not claimed Robin Williams, he would have continued to inspire, evoke laughter and saved others in the same situation.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.