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Robin Williams: A Conversation About Dual Diagnosis

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Actor Robin Williams was tragically found dead in his California home Last week, in an apparent suicide. The Oscar-winning actor and comedian had long battled a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and depression, for which he had spent time in recovery. In fact, Williams recently made headlines for proactively returning to treatment to strengthen his recovery. His passing has saddened thousands across the globe, both those who knew him personally and those who knew him only through his films.

A Personal History of Dual Diagnosis

Williams was known for his range of performances, from the zany Mork in Mork and Mindy to the more serious and inspiring role of teacher John Keating from Dead Poets Society. Behind his public talent was a personal struggle with dual diagnosis. Williams made no secret that he was in recovery following years of substance abuse, making it clear that recovery is an ongoing process. He faced an extra challenge, one that was perhaps less in the public eye, and that was living with depression.

Williams’ publicist reported that of late, his depression had been especially severe. In a dual diagnosis, both the addiction and mental health disorder feed off of each other and can be very difficult to handle. Robin Williams has shown us that no matter how things may appear on the outside, internal forces of a dual diagnosis can be very serious, and very difficult to face alone.

The Importance of Treatment

As we try to process the loss of a public figure who brought laughter into so many lives, one question raised is an important one: Does treatment work? Williams was actively in recovery and had been for many years, so why did he still meet such a terrible end? His death does not indicate that treatment doesn’t work, but rather shows us just how critical treatment can be. What Robin Williams went through can happen to anyone, no matter what their lifestyle or experiences.

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Dual diagnosis treatment works, but it is not fail-proof. There are many factors that contribute to its effectiveness, from the frequency of meetings to at-home support. It’s natural to ask ‘Why?’ when something like this happens, but it is not useful to search for someone to blame. What we can do is talk about ways to keep it from happening to someone else.

Since news broke of Williams’ death, there has been an outpouring of support and a wave of very clear messages about mental illness: it is nothing to be ashamed of, and help is available. By reducing the stigma around mental health disorders and dual diagnosis, we can increase access to mental health treatment and reinforce the statement that each person is loved and has value.

If you or someone you love is having problems with alcohol abuse, chemical dependency or addiction, recovery from a drug abuse program, like the one at Destination Hope, may be the answer.  Remember that recovery from addiction and alcohol abuse treatment means learning how to cope with intensely emotional situations, and identifying when you need help and support.  Treatment for addiction relapse, counseling, and aftercare can help you do this, so please call us today. Destination Hope is a full-service addiction and health treatment facility in Florida for men and women who suffer from substance abuse and behavioral health issues.

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