Hollywood and even a large section of Bollywood is still in shock about US actor Robin Williams, who has been found dead, aged 63, in an apparent suicide. Reports state that the Marin County Police in California said Williams was pronounced dead at his home after officials responded to an emergency call. His publicist said he had been “battling severe depression”.

Williams struggle with alcohol and drugs was public as he used to talk about it. The suicide was a result of asphyxiation. The death once again puts an emphasis on how it is absolutely imperative not to take depression lightly. Depression is a medical condition, one cannot be flippant about it. One’s mental state is often, and especially in India, not given the same importance as a physical state. Depression is waved away as a phase where one feels low and those suffering are told that it will go away. This kind of advice, however well-meaning, is amateur.

Depressives at times need medication and professional therapy and counselling. First of all, they need to admit to themselves and then speak about being depressed. They need to recognise the condition themselves so that they convey that to others. Families should not be ashamed of a depressed person in their midst. Depressives too, have to battle a stigma like so many others with mental problems and that is the first obstacle to overcome; to wipe clean the stigma associated with a mental illness.

Families and friends of a depressive need to be hugely supportive. Living with a depressive is a huge challenge and care givers too, need to be more educated and aware about the medical condition. Depression also has degrees from mild to severe; professional help is the only way one needs to tackle this. Tackle depression with a multi-pronged approach: medical help, therapy and seeking support in the circle. Like Robin Williams has shown us, mental illness, though often not tangible, can be as deadly as physical illness. Get treatment and do not be ashamed or hesitant to do so.