A Silent Killer: 10 Reasons Why Depression Is Nothing At All Like You Think It Is

by John Haltiwanger

As many people know by now, Robin Williams tragically passed away yesterday from a battle with depression.

I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say that it feels like we all just lost a close friend.

There was something about the twinkle in Williams' eye that made him feel incredibly familiar. His smile made you feel warm inside, and his laugh seemed to make the world just a little bit better.

He had an immeasurable ability to capture essentially every human emotion, and could bring you from laughter to tears within seconds.

Whether you were watching him as the Genie in "Aladdin," Peter Pan in "Hook," or as the profoundly wise yet sad shrink in "Good Will Hunting," Robin Williams was a natural at connecting with people.

He made us feel OK that we're a little bit crazy inside because he let all of his crazy out in public... He wore his heart on his sleeve.

Williams wasn't afraid to be vulnerable, which makes it so tragic that he felt the need to take his life without reaching out to others.

As President Barack Obama so aptly put it:

Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between.  But he was one of a kind.  He arrived in our lives as an alien -- but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.  He made us laugh.  He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most -- from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets...

It's also important to remember Robin Williams not only for who he was on the screen, but as a human being. Sometimes those who are laughing the loudest are simply attempting to drown an unspeakable sadness within.

Depression is a serious illness, and it impacts people all over the world, famous or not. If you feel depressed, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. In fact, you are more normal than you think. You are not alone.

10 Reasons Depression Is Not What You Think It Is:

1. Depression is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of being human.

Depression is an illness. It's not just a passing thing. It impacts millions of people across the world. In the United States,  one out of 10 people report depression. Globally, it is estimated that 350 million people suffer from depression.

It's not a sign of weakness, it's an illness. Would you call someone weak if they got cancer? People with depression fight a battle every single day.

2. People who commit suicide are not selfish. It's a product of an illness.

Suicide is tragic and painful. When people lose someone they love, regardless of the circumstances, it's difficult not to feel angry at someone or something.

In the case of suicide, people sometimes want to blame the individuals. But their deaths were not their faults, they were sick. Suicide is the worst case scenario for someone with depression. Yet, frequent thoughts of suicide or hurting oneself are a common symptom of depression.

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, don't wait until it's too late. Ask for help. And if you know someone having these kind of thoughts, make sure he or she finds help as well. There is no need to hide.

3. Depression cannot just be "cured." But it can be treated.

Depression will not go away overnight. If someone tells you to "just suck it up," don't listen to that person. There are plenty of ways to treat depression. Psychological counseling, medication, hospitalization and even exercise can help with depression.

4. Taking medication for depression is not a sign of giving up.

If you had tonsillitis, wouldn't you take an antibiotic to get better? Depression is no different.

Medication can help improve your symptoms and allow you to return to the things that bring you joy in life. Taking medication is not a sign of giving up, it's a sign that you're ready to get better.

5. Mental illness impacts children and adults across the world.

Mental illness does not just affect adults, it's also common in children. It can have a significant impact on a child's wellbeing and development, and it should not be ignored.

6. Stigmatizing and disparaging people with mental illness is like making fun of someone for getting cancer.

Depression, and mental illness in general, has a terrible stigma surrounding it. People don't want to feel weak in the mind, or admit that something is "wrong with them." There is nothing weak about depression, and there is nothing "wrong" with people suffering from it.

7. Depression comes in many forms.

We all get sad from time to time, but when it persists and makes it difficult for us to carry out our daily lives, then it might be a sign of something more serious.

Depression is also linked to other forms of mental illness, such as anxiety and bipolar disorder.

We all might show signs and symptoms of these various illnesses, that does not necessarily mean that we have them. Regardless, there is nothing wrong with going to see a doctor if you feel concerned about your mental health.

8. Depression hurts, and not just mentally.

Depression is often manifested physically, more proof that it's a real illness... Depression can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, it seems to suck all of the energy out of you.

It can lead to stress in the body, back pain, headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia, a diminished libido, fatigue, weight loss and/or weight gain. Remember the old saying, "sound body, sound mind"? Well, it goes both ways.

9. Asking for help is the greatest sign of a healthy mind. Don't wait until it's too late.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. It means that you're willing to admit when you're feeling vulnerable, which is an incredibly brave thing to do. Exposing yourself is never easy, but it's often the right thing to do.

We do not have to go through life alone. As the great philosopher Aristotle once said, "Man is by nature a social animal."

The mind is exceptionally powerful, which is precisely why it is such a gift. At the same time, it can be difficult to control.

There is nothing wrong with seeking assistance in the fight for your mind. If you don't understand what I mean, perhaps my good friend Bill Withers can explain it for you...

10. If you feel depressed, don't let anyone ever tell you that "something is wrong with you."

There is nothing wrong with you. You are sick, but that does not mean that you are hopeless. Some of the most accomplished individuals in history suffered from some form of depression or another... Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Leo Tolstoy, to name a few.

Sadness is a natural aspect of the human condition, and it often leads to immense insight and wisdom.

Goodbye Robin Williams. Thank you for the laughter, the tears, and everything in between. I ain't never had a friend like you...

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, you don't have to suffer alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (in the US) at 1-800-273-8255.

Photo Credit: WENN