Robin Williams: There but for the grace go I

600full-robin-williamsTonight another family is numb. Numb from the pain of losing a beloved one. A beloved one who could not numb the pain he felt. And tonight I’m angry.  Angry and afraid. If you can’t get a handle on the black dog at the age of 63 where does it leave those of us coming up behind? If money and fame and success can’t steam the tide of loneliness, fear and sadness what can?

Just like Gary Speed before him, the news of Robin Williams untimely death reminds me there is so much more we need to do to combat this most common of illnesses. One in four, yes one in four of us will experience a mental health problem within their lifetime. Add the many who love those one in four and you have travesty in health care provision that we must address. Not with endless waiting lists, quick pharma fixes, heartless benefit re-assessments or stigma but with care, compassion and fair funding. Support me in living with depression and I can be the person I really can be. Support me and I find my way through life without stumbling. I can work, live, contribute and be me.

I live daily with my depression thanks to luck, love and meds. Occasionally I fall through the cracks. I don’t have access to regular care and talking therapies is a pipe dream with a waiting list longer than an Arsenal Season Ticket. When I require help I have to beg the NHS mental health services, such as they are, or and lean upon the kindness of others – usually funded by charities such as MindOut. (Hence my support of Brighton Pride & The Rainbow Fund – who continuing support enables such groups to carry out their vital work within our community).

And there’s the meds. Oh the meds. Each coming with a list of side effects to make one, well really fucking depressed. Weight gain, anxiety, dizziness, nausea, blinding headaches, insomnia, low sex drive and even suicidal thoughts are apparently the acceptable price to pay to be ‘normal’ as your mood is stablised to the delightful stage of “fuck it, who cares!”. So you have to make decisions – off or on meds. You or not you. A chemically adjusted and oh so acceptable soul that Ian Duncan Smith would heartily approve of but with the lights off inside. No wonder so many of us recalibrate this adjustment with self medication – the balance has to be made somehow.

At my lowest, and I’m not proud of this, I wish for cancer or heart disease, for anything visible, funded and taken seriously. I know there are those who live with conditions who also have to fight for the right for care and the world is an harsh and expensive place at the mercy of budget cuts and privatisation but something has to be done. As a society we need to acknowledge that this most insipid and invisible of illnesses is a very real threat. To society, to our families and to ourselves. Because when the Twitter tributes are done and the headlines are forgotten, the stories of the destruction caused by depression will remain, will continue to be told.  For Robin’s sake, for our sakes we need to change this story’s ending.

To join Mind’s Access To Talking Therapy Campaign – the basic right to access help within 28 days please go to www.mind.org.uk