Depression often a private struggle but it doesn’t have to be

We join the collective outpouring of grief and sympathy being expressed at the unexpected death of Robin Williams. He was much too young and much too loved and admired to die as he did. Yet, as this tragedy kindles the discussion and debate on this troubling topic, we find that his celebrity and station provided no protection against the disease that ultimately caused him to take his life: depression.

Williams battled depression for years. Substance abuse, as it so often is, was layered in with the rest. In the wake of his passing, we learned that his war against depression had become particularly desperate in recent weeks and months. He lost the fight earlier this week. And here we are as a nation, talking about what killed him like it is some new condition. It isn’t.

The statistics concerning depression are, well, depressing. Depending on whose numbers you believe and accept, as many as one in 10 adults in the U.S. have suffered from it to one degree or another. And children aren’t immune either. Up to 2.5 percent of kids have it. Very often in both adults and children, it’s undiagnosed and therefore untreated.

And that’s the thing. Treatment is possible, if the person suffering makes it known what they are going through, something that can be made more difficult because of society’s inaccurate or outdated notions about depression.

Often, treatment includes drug therapy. People who have had positive results with drugs often tell stories of finding the right medication in the right amount and how their lives were profoundly improved once that happened.

The key, of course, is reaching out or finding the strength and focus to be receptive if help is offered.

Like a great many people who suffer from depression, especially long-term depression, Williams internalized a good portion of his war, making it difficult to gauge just exactly how he was doing. Certainly those closest to him were unaware that matters were as critical as they turned out to be.

Here’s the bottom line. If someone you know suffers from depression, be a resource for strength, understanding and patience. Help them find the way to the right treatment option for them. Their life may depend on it.