I don't know the statistics of how many people on the planet have mental illness in its various forms.. I do know how it has affected me and those around me.
As a kid growing up in a home that most days was the equivalent of walk softly around land mines…mental and physical abuse was there. I had most of this locked in a buried box somewhere in my brain until I was about 24. That was when I had my first mental breakdown. I was taking painkillers to help me sleep and to get through the day, I would sometimes drink alcohol when I was around others ( excessive amounts one particular night that turned bad enough that I may never get into the details here yet). When I got home, I went to talk to a shrink fro the first time. THe first breakdown was my first time I allowed all of the traumas of my childhood and teenage years to be told. the first of many memories that turned into a never ending tidal wave. My mental levee broke, that barrier was holding back all of the early worst things that had happened to me. I told a Padre some of it, but I never told him what trigger it all to come flood back. I was terrified of acknowledging it anyone.. including myself.
After I left the Army, I needed to find something that would help me understand what was wrong with me. That was 1996. I have been in therapy on and off ever since. It was about 2006 that was when I started finding out what some of my mental illnesses were.. yes apparently a person can have more than one. My main one is PTSD. The others I will talk about later. This is a lot for me to admit to and I feel fragile enough right now.
The big problem with most mental illnesses is that there is sometimes a risk of suicide. I having been battling it for almost two decades now. I am grateful to the few people I kept around me who didn't judge me or force their opinions of how I should deal with it all. They did their best.
I have been reading most of what has been said about Robin Williams the past couple of days. I didn't know him but his death broke my heart. I grew up watching his tv shows and movies and some of his standup. I will miss him. Not many helped me laugh in my life ( I am grateful to those who have) and he is one of the few people I wish I had met.
I read some of the comments about Robin Williams.. most of them were nice but the some were nasty. the nasty ones were condemning Mr. Williams for his suicide. Shame on them for their lack of empathy and lack of understanding of how mental illness takes away hope and tosses you into a dark abyss. Some can find their way out again. how we deal with mental illness and how it deeply affects those who deal with it inside their brains everyday and every night.
So if you know someone who is going through their own personal hell, be a good listener, if they want advice, give it gently and if you want to do more.. don't push. No you don't have to walk on eggshells around most of us. just remember that we have our limits, some of us have our routines, just remember that something may happen to you one day that causes some form of mental illness and you will be glad that you have people around you who know what it is like and will understand.