The root of the problem

Published 8:37 am Monday, August 18, 2014

We are a nation addicted to quick fixes.

As society continues to speed up and people try to fit as much as they can into any given day, taking the time to solve problems correctly rather than just superficially seems as though it is becoming yet another casualty of modern life. No longer are professionals allowed the time to build quality into their endeavors as demand for the immediate continues to grow. Politicians, doctors and even entertainers must show immediate success, or they will find themselves under constant fire.

Unfortunately, for many of the problems the world is facing currently, there is no quick fix. One of those problems shot to the fore last week when it was announced that beloved entertainer Robin Williams had taken his own life.

According to those that knew him, Williams suffered from depression. Hidden behind the zany mask he wore for the world was a man in trouble. Yes, he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and battled addictions for many years, but without that underlying feeling of hopelessness that is characteristic of clinical depression, it is unlikely Williams would have chosen that final desperate “solution.”

It should be noted that clinical depression differs from ordinary feelings of sadness in that the low mood may not be triggered by actual events, but rather a chemical imbalance, and may last for months or even years. It has been reported that a high percentage of those who commit suicide suffer from depression.

A little closer to home, last week in New Orleans a large homeless encampment was cleared in the interest of public safety. While these actions may have been warranted, simply removing the homeless does little to actually combat the problem of homelessness. It is believed a high percentage of homeless are battling depression or some other type of mental disorder, and simply sweeping them under the proverbial carpet will do little to help them or the city.

One of the major hurdles we face in dealing with depression is a basic lack of understanding. Its symptoms are often invisible to the naked eye, but they are not nonexistent. Just as children are tested physically for signs of any of a number of ailments, perhaps it is time to test them for a propensity for depression and other similar disorders. Maybe that would help to remove the stigma attached to depression, for just as no one should feel inferior for their own physical limitations, so, too, should people be unashamed of mental problems that are beyond their control.

Luckily, here in Washington Parish, there are a number of options for those who suffer from mental disorders. The Bogalusa Mental Health Clinic on Willis Avenue and the Adapt facility on Memphis Street are just two of the places treating those with mental disorders locally.

But having treatment options is not always enough. People who suffer from depression are often resistant to treatment because of the associated societal stigma. Sometimes what it takes is a little push from a family member or close friend.

So, again, it boils down to the basic tenets of a close-knit community. Take an interest in those around you, and if you suspect someone may have clinical depression, let them know that it is OK to feel that way and that there is help available for them. Offer to accompany them to get checked out, if that’s what it takes.

Sweeping a problem under the rug may seem to solve the problem, but it only leaves a bigger mess to be cleaned up later.

David Vitrano is the general manager and managing editor of The Daily News. He can be reached at