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Louise Newson

18 August 2014

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mental_health_shutterstock_192032834.jpgA 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.


Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!

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