The death of a celebrity often focuses people’s attention on a problem or an illness. A case in point is the suicide of actor Robin Williams and depression.
At least 16 million adults had this mental illness in 2012, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. What used to be known as an extreme state of sadness is today a recognized illness that is treatable with drugs and therapy.
However, despite the growing number of people who show symptoms of depression, it remains as an illness that is frequently not treated properly, whether for fear of social stigma or ignorance.
In the Latino community, this situation is intensified. Many studies point out that there is often a cultural reluctance to see a doctor before seeking other spiritual options. When Hispanics decide to go to a specialist, cultural differences come up again.
This is not the common cold that any doctor can cure. Specialists say that there is a need to understand the patient’s culture and the impact treatment has on him or her. The problem is that there are only 29 Latino mental health professionals for every 100,000 Hispanics in the U.S., compared to 173 non-Latino professionals for every 100,000 non-Hispanics.
On the other hand, our society is prejudiced against mental illness, as if it were a matter of character and personality.
Because of a misunderstood machismo, many men do not recognize the symptoms. This usually leads to drug addiction and even suicide.
Depression has an especially hard impact on the family circle, which first does not know how to react and later must co-exist, helping the patient deal with inner struggle.
Mental illness treatments in general have lagged behind.
Therefore, given the current lack of accessible treatments, prisons have tragically become housing for people who should be treated elsewhere.
Williams’ tragedy shows that neither money nor fame prevent this illness; we are all in danger of having it. Being sad or nostalgic is not the same as being depressed. It is important to know how to recognize the symptoms in order to take action, be together and provide support to that loved one when he or she needs it