But his tragic passing, along with that in February of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, is a reminder that the typical American solution, throwing money at a problem, hasn't worked in terms of treating mental illness.
Robin Williams' death a wake-up call for mental health workers
Both stars were open about their mental health and addiction battles. Knowing and admitting you have a problem is often seen as the first, and most important, step to battling such demons. And both presumably had access to the best care money could buy.
Indeed Psychology Today earlier this year looked at what it termed the top five addiction treatment centers in the world, and found treatment costs ranging from $2,000 (at a center founded specifically to treat the homeless) to a high of $73,000. All five facilities are in Southern California, “the hub of treatment for addicts and alcoholics,” Psychology Today notes, obliquely raising the connection between mental illness and creativity that seems to permeate the creative world of entertainment.
So rather than a call for more mental health spending, Williams' death should be an occasion for mental health providers to re-examine what they do and how they do it with patients they are treating. No cookie-cutter formula exists for curing those with mental illness, no magic vaccine or serum is out there, all of which makes it even more incumbent on providers to treat each individual as an individual.
Follow John N. Frank on Twitter: @MHJFrank
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