KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Actor’s Suicide Shows Complexities Of Depression And Its Treatment

The Washington Post looks at how Robin Williams' death has reignited a national conversation about mental health issues and treatment, and whether public attitudes toward diagnosis and treatment are changing.

The Washington Post: Robin Williams’s Death Shows The Power Of Depression And The Impulsiveness Of Suicide
Many suicides are the result of undiagnosed or untreated depression, often masked by self-medicating behaviors such as alcohol and drug use. Though we don’t yet know the exact circumstances of Williams’s death, we do know that he long battled addictions to cocaine and alcohol and, according to his publicist, was struggling with “severe depression.” But unlike many people, Williams had the resources and the motivation to seek treatment, at least for his addictions. According to this report, he had undergone rehab at the famed Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota two months ago, and had sought treatment in 2006 when he began drinking again after 20 years of sobriety. How, then, do we explain the death of someone who appeared to recognize the danger he faced and was trying to address it? (Bernstein, Sun and Somashekhar, 8/12).

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: A Better Understanding Of Mental Illness Hasn’t Reduced The Stigma Around It
The tragic news of Robin Williams's death by apparent suicide on Monday has again reignited a larger conversation about the need to eliminate the social stigma still surrounding depression and mental illness. It's a conversation that seems to keep resurfacing around tragic incidents over the past couple of years, so it's worth asking whether the stigma is at all getting smaller. Unfortunately, there aren't very many rigorous polls capturing American attitudes toward diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. There are some signs of changing attitudes, though (Millman, 8/12).

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