Mental Illness and Addiction

Every addict suffers from depression. Not everyone who is depressed is an addict.

There are countless studies about the connection between mental illness and addiction; after all they are both missteps in the wiring of the brain. Bi-polar is often the biggest cause of suicide when mental illness is involved and well, half of bi-polar is depression. The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

I don’t want to get into a big debate about mental illness and depression and Robin Williams. Someone unfollowed me on Twitter because I disagreed with her that addiction doesn’t cause depression or suicide. Nothing could be further from the truth. EVERYONE I know who has killed themselves had an addiction and everyone I know who has an addiction has some form of mental illness. Addiction is not the only cause of mental illness of course, not by far, but this study is one of many that shows its connection .. How Mental Illness and Addiction Influence Each Other.

According to WebMD, reports show that adults who were diagnosed with a mental health issue were twice as likely to have a drug abuse issue with an addictive substance like hallucinogens, cocaine, heroin and other drugs. Rates of alcohol abuse and binge drinking were higher in this population as well, and the more severe the disease, the more severe the issue with drug and/or alcohol abuse.

I was reading some quotes from famous people about the passing of Robin Williams. The one I was most struck by because it was likely most on the nose was by Steven Spielberg who said. Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him.” Performers who need constant reassurance, the ‘thunder’ in this instance, are highly prone to depression and well, to drugs and alcohol.

I didn’t know Robin Williams. Am I allowed to say though I recognized his gift, his manic energy annoyed me? It did. I liked his subtler performances such as “One Hour Photo”, “Insomnia”, “The Fisher King” (not subtle but special in a different way) and his guest starring role on “Law and Order: SVU”. What I do know is that his bally-hooed return to television after years following his triumphant debut on “Mork and Mindy” was cancelled after one season. After 20+ years he had fallen off the wagon and continued to struggle with his addiction to cocaine and alcohol. Addiction is depressing. It constantly nags at you and to live with it is burdensome. His lack of success on television where pretty much everyone has the opportunity to tune in but didn’t, must have been crushing for someone of his stature and ego. I know nothing of his private issues, only what I know from addiction, mental illness, celebrity and the need for approval. I myself am not an addict but boy do I know a lot, I work in show business!

Suicide may or may not be a momentary thought, one that with help could be avoided. In others, the pain of not fitting in, of struggling, of ‘failure’ (in ones eyes), in not being perfect or good enough, of putting others through pain, of whatever it is, is enough. Some people carry the burden for as long as they can before they give out. I don’t wish it on anyone and as he was in care for addiction (and I’m sure his depression) just weeks before his death, I’m sure the issues were fresh on his mind and had been discussed at length.

Cher had a great tweet – she is a brilliant tweeter – her insight into human nature, and the gift of artists like Williams, is phenomenal.


The very nature of performers involves the need of approval. If people stop clapping the show closes, the movie tanks, the record doesn’t sell. Addicts often have terrible self-worth unless they work hard to overcome it. Even if they do, one slip and it too can dissolve.

Countless people die daily from mental illness caused by faulty wiring with or without a side car of addiction. I’m sorry to hear another one was taken yesterday. For those who are not high-profile – and those who are – there is no longer a stigma attached to any of these things. Here we are saying it – Robin Williams died of the cunning and baffling disease of Addiction and Depression. Here is a list of others who have suffered as well – famous people with mental illness. famous people with bipolar disorder. Addiction and not my place to tell you ever famous person who is an addict. There is a long list we all know who have died of drugs in just the past 10 years! Are you afraid to be included in this list? Many of these people achieved the most brilliant art and writing we know today. You can too. Try not to be like Hemingway and blow your brains out. Get help, acknowledge it. You are in good company.


One thought on “Mental Illness and Addiction

  1. You’re not the only one who enjoyed robin’s more serious roles. I watch his law and order: svu appearance whenever it airs in reruns. The only movies I have watched of his are Aladdin, mrs. Doubtfire, jack, jumanji, dead poets society, and good will hunting, but I would like to see more of his films. He will be missed.

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