A few months ago, I watched the film Mrs Doubtfire with my children and until then I had forgotten what an excellent film it is and how incredibly talented and versatile an actor Robin Williams is, or rather was.
It was so sad to read about his suicide last week. I was really shocked and saddened to read about his depression and his recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Many comments on social media sites have stated that he was “selfish” taking his own life. Although I can understand why people feel this about a person who has committed suicide, I do think that this does highlight an ignorance of how a person with severe depression really feels.
We have all seen people in our surgeries who have had a difficult few days and think they are depressed and need treatment. Although they are depressed, i.e. have a low mood, the vast majority do not have clinical depression and do not need any treatment other than advice and reassurance. We have also all seen people who present with somatising symptoms or even unrelated symptoms and on further questioning we diagnose clinical depression and offer treatment.
There have been many recent reports stating that depression is overdiagnosed and overtreated in primary care. However, there are still a significant number of people in the UK with depression who are not diagnosed and therefore are not receiving treatment.
Hopefully something positive will arise from Robin Williams’s death – that more people will understand what depression really is and also that those who need treatment for undiagnosed depression come to their doctors to receive it.