The Death of Robin Williams Reveals a Growing National Health Crisis

The death of Robin Williams reminds us yet again that depression is a serious life-threatening illness and needs to be recognized as a major public health crisis. By conservative estimates, one in five Americans has lifetime experience with depressions, bipolar illnesses or related disorders. An astounding 75-80% of deaths by suicide can be traced to these illnesses.

Robin Williams had reportedly struggled with depression.  He had also struggled with a history of substance abuse, a common combination with mood disorders. Adding to that, he has dealt with cardiac health issues and related surgery, which also increases the odds of depression in patients.  The same is true of other major health issues such as cancer and diabetes.

Although we will never know all of the underlying causes for his individual situation and resulting decision to end his life, here at the National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC), we see this pattern repeated far too often. From his history and the history of millions of others who suffer from depression we know that we need much more research, longer clinical studies, and more collaboration to develop new and better treatments for these brain illnesses.  The NNDC was formed in response to these challenges; more than 500 members from 21 locations in the country are united in our efforts to advance the research and treatment of mood disorders and to orchestrate a national action plan to lessen this national health crisis.

The National Network of Depression Centers is (NNDC) is a not-for-profit network of the nation’s leading depression centers and academic medical centers in the field of mood disorders. Founded in October 2008, this first-of-its-kind network is dedicated to advancing and transforming depressions, bipolar illnesses and associated disorders. Please visit our website for more information about our organization and our work to expedite scientific discovery, disseminate advancements in patient care, and improve quality of life for those with depressive and bipolar illnesses. NNDC experts are available for interviews and background information for media.  Please contact Pat Rinvelt, Executive Director, at prinvelt@nndc.org or by phone at 734-332-3914 to schedule an interview or briefing.

John F. Greden, M.D., founding chair, National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC), and executive director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center; Past President, Board of Directors, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention