Does Mental Illness Really Need Further Awareness?

Let’s talk about Robin Williams’s depression, actually, let’s not.

The fact that Robin suffered from depression is no one’s business, other than the family and friends who were close to him. The fact is, I feel bad even mentioning the story to make my point.

Therapists, community leaders and others use the excuse that if we talk about mental illness, it will create further awareness.

But is there really a lack of awareness with regards to mental illness?

Almost every newspaper and magazine have columns written about mental health topics. The internet has millions of websites talking about mental health, book stores have entire sections on Psychology and Self-help. There is even a public awareness day for mental health.

Yet, there are around 800,000 to a million people dying by suicide every year but the social networks are abuzz because a celebrity committed suicide, which is no doubt tragic, but why does Robin Williams need to be counted out as the target of people’s gossip and analysis?

For many people, it seems fascinating to learn and read about other people’s miseries, but for those who are suffering, comments, posts and tweets with some professionals analysis is nothing more than nauseating and off putting!

When it comes to stories of other people’s pain, discomfort and sufferings, however one makes it sound, talking about them will not benefit or positively help anyone.

The popular exclamations for what “could have been a helpful suggestion”

There are two mistakes that many people make about therapists and community leaders:

  • Therapists and leaders are often perceived to be like a doctor of sorts, a healer, or as someone who has a cure to offer for an ailment.
  • Some will also assume that a person who is having a tough time emotionally will immediately consider going for therapy as a first option for help.

The truth is though, in reality, most people  will take a while until they make a decision to go for help, most often a person will have suffered for years before they make that call.

Adding to that, many people are far from convinced that it is even worthwhile and in their interest to consult with a therapist. Only today, I had a client who almost cancelled at the last minute because of their uncertainty whether it was the right choice to be making.

Potential clients are certainly not going to become convinced of a therapists skills, empathy and effectiveness by seeing their online posts discussing some public figure’s depression.

Today, I saw one therapist blog about Robin Williams’s depression, stating that we have to teach the world more techniques such like EFT (Emotional freedom technique). This reminded me of a cartoon I had my friend cartoonist Darrel Mordecai draw some time ago.



We have got to stop diagnosing and suggesting treatments to people as if their mental health issue is a comparative to a physical ailment.

I fully understand the intention of attempting to take away stigma by saying that the same way a person would treat cancer they should also treat depression, but this form of presenting things have enabled professionals in the change-work field to get away with treating people with real life issues as if it is a diagnosis or a root cause of a diagnosis they are treating – it is not – we are dealing with human beings who need help, people who are out of solutions, they may feel trapped, stuck and nowhere to go. Predominantly such people need to be believed, not just offered a way out with a suggestion of a technique, or told ‘a’ preferred explanation.

Here is another cartoon that I had created – by Darrel Mordecai


About the Author
Menachem Schloss grew up in Stamford Hill, London, lives currently in Beit Shemesh, Israel. He has a private therapy practice and blogs on thought provoking ideas in psychotherapy.