Health Team

Williams' death shines spotlight on depression

Posted August 12, 2014

The psychological condition of depression was thrown into the national spotlight Monday as news of comedian Robin Williams’ death spread across the globe.

Williams was battling severe depression, according to reports, and fought drug and alcohol addiction for decades.

Nearly 19 million American adults experience depression once a year. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to develop major depression. Nearly a third of those with depression had a co-existing substance use disorder at some point, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Sarah Lisanby, a psychiatrist at the Duke University School of Medicine who studies the treatment of psychiatric disorders, stresses the importance of treatment for depression and substance abuse.

“The good news is there is hope,” she said. “We actually do have effective treatments, so if we can get that person into treatment fast enough and get them to the effective forms of treatments fast enough, you can save a life.”



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  • shallottemustang Aug 13, 2014

    Not until changes come to the healthcare system can things like depression ever be treated.

    If you are ever treated for depression, it greatly impacts so many things in your life:

    1) You're insurance, especially BCBS of NC will not cover your treatment and medications to the point you can afford them. The coverage is so low or there is no coverage at all and you must come out of pocket that treatment is unobtainable if you are middle class.

    2) The taboo of getting treatment is such that it can impact things like your job, things you can do like fly a plane, or effect if you can own a firearm.

    3) Many times the treatment side effects are almost as bad as depression itself.

    We have a long way to go and no real plan to get there. Until then, we will continue to see the Williams of the world and never hear about the thousands we lose every day.

  • Magic Moment Aug 13, 2014

    I didn't know Robin Williams personally, or maybe I did. Robin Williams played a big roll in my life...In 1978 when I was pregnant Robin Williams made me laugh and kept me smiling with his show Mork and Mindy. Even when I wasn't watching the show I would burst out in laughter just thinking about one of the episodes. On May 20th 1979 I gave birth to my baby girl that I named Mindy. I named her after my favorite show ever and because of the man that always kept me laughing. All through the years and now, 35 years later, she still tells everyone she was named after Mork and Mindy. And I still get teased about if she had been a boy would I have named him Mork. So yes, I did know him and will always remember him everytime I look at... my Mindy...My Heart hurts...I never thought I would see the day you would make me cry. God Bless you Robin Williams/Mork

  • pipcolt Aug 13, 2014

    A cry for help that was heard to late. You will be missed Mr. Williams.

  • SaveEnergyMan Aug 13, 2014

    We call it depression because we really don't know what's going on. Sure, treatments work for some, partly for others, but it is still mystery - in spite of the quote from Dr. Lisanby. It doesn't make logical sense and a physical trigger has not yet been discovered for everyone.

    All we can do is be supportive, encourage treatments that work, and hope for real progress in research. Prayers to all that are living with depression and to those that support them through the demons.

  • Bill Brasky Aug 13, 2014

    Robin Williams was always so happy, loving, positive and full of energy. It makes you think what may of caused him to do this....sure depression, but what triggered it? Could it be what our society has become? The polarized hate coming from both sides of the political spectrum. Sometime we need to sit back and remember, we are all people.

    Despite how politics, and other things, causes us to act carelessly around one another, we all need to remember how Robin Williams treated mankind.

  • ohmygosh Aug 13, 2014

    Dr. Lisanby did a fair job at discussing “treatment resistant”
    people with depression. Unfortunately she left out the numbers.

    One number is the how many people commit suicide yearly. A good
    fraction of them represent depression treatment failures.

    According to a multimillion dollar UNC study 50% of those given
    the best of care do not achieve remission. See:

    A person in this category is likely not working and likely does
    not have insurance. So how can they get above average treatment?

    In addition she mentioned antidepressant side effects. Giving people drugs which cause weight gain, constipation, insomnia, impotence and sometimes suicidal thoughts, hardly makes one feel better about themselves.

    Keep in mind this group of people has suffered 2-20+ years of unsuccessful treatment. It is no wonder they loose hope.