NEW HYDE PARK, NY – The death of Robin Williams is bringing to the surface some societal stigmas about suicide and a New York psychiatrist and psychologist note that much needs to be done to reduce and remove this stigma.
“Like nearly all illness, mental illness is the product of a person’s genes interacting with their environment,” explains Jessy Warner-Cohen, PhD, health psychologist at LIJ Medical Center in New Hyde Park. “This is similar to someone who develops heart disease. Their genes make them more vulnerable to heart disease and a combination of environmental factors, such as diet and exercise, can lead to heart disease. Unlike many other illnesses though, stigma can prevent someone from seeking help.”
Robert Dicker, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, says, “I think the shame is that people don’t look at suicide like other illnesses… Depression is every bit as serious of an illness as congestive heart failure.”
So how can the stigma around suicide and mental illness become eradicated?
“Research tells us that stigma is reduced through open conversation and personal interaction,” Dr. Warner-Cohen says.