Skip to main content

We just looked at the stats. 25 million Americans will suffer this year from depression. Only half will get treatment.

Robin Williams Depression

With the loss of the sensitive, suffering, generous genius named Robin Williams, there is an opportunity to talk about this.

Can we agree to remove the stigma that we place on people who seek mental health care?

Can we finally agree to give every one of our citizens full access to, and encouragement to seek, whatever kind of health care they need?

Can we finally agree that there are plenty of ways to make money without gotcha accommodations to specific health insurance policies, and ultimately, provisions for non-medical types to pocket profits because someone else needs health care services?

Do we as a society need, and can we morally justify, a health care system that is, at its core, based on profits and only provides care if some investor can collect a dividend?

And can we justify obscenely bloated salary and perk packages to health care executives who manipulate the care that is given, and denied, for the purpose of maximizing profits?

Sure, we now have a rudimentary Obamacare. And a long way to go.

And sure, Robin Williams had money. But plenty of other Americans do not. You can bet that most Americans who suffer from depression have had their talents and their employability held back by it, and that has constrained their earning power.

And sure, Robin Williams had money. But plenty of other Americans do not. You can bet that most Americans who suffer from depression have had their talents and their employability held back by it, and that has constrained their earning power.

The same goes for physical injuries that reduce earning power. We don't stigmatize that, though we still don't do a good job fixing it.

The overriding point is, when will we as a society decide to empower all our citizens to achieve all they can -- by realizing that a key determinant is serving their health care needs?

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Depression can kick people to the curb. So can living with painful or debilitating physical injuries. And the two can be closely related. Plus, it extends beyond the patient to their family who must face questions and uncertainties and emotional agonies.

And ultimately, it extends to all of us. Because all of us pay the price in lost productivity, lost creativity, lost innovation.

Sometimes, we feel it as shock and loss to our culture. More often, it happens quietly, even silently, all around us.

For those fixated on money, consider this: kicking people to the curb comes at a price in lost GDP and in effort lost from primary productive activities.

At the high end of Hollywood projects, Robin Williams' movies have grossed over $5 billion dollars. Many more millions will be made when his final four films are eventually released. After that, there will be untold lost revenue from all the other things his energetic genius would have produced for Hollywood's capitalists to market.


At the other end of the economy, how much revenue and profit are lost every day because a plumber's hand injuries won't allow turning a wrench, because a teacher is too depressed to face an overcrowded classroom, because insurance won't approve a procedure that could get a carpenter back on the job? How many remain unemployed because the carpal tunnel they developed on the last job make another employer unwilling to take a chance on them?

With hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans now in or seeking to enter the work force, can we afford to stigmatize the long term psychological needs and traumatic brain injuries many of them bring home? Or do we refuse to hire all of them rather than risk the cost of workplace disruption that accompanies the needs of some when they seek care -- or attempt to function without it?

Needed care that, with the present system, is expensive, not always readily available, and must be secretly sought in some cases due to employer standards?

We have lost, to deadly depression, the genius that was Robin Williams.

How many more of our people, known and unknown, with talents proven or promised, must we lose because we don't believe in treating injured, hurting, suffering people, and because we play games with what ailments are acceptable to our sensibilities, and which ones make the sufferer a pariah?


With the death of Robin Williams, the door is open -- slightly. Until something else distracts us. Until we lose another celebrity.

Larry Wines