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"We hear about murders, not suicides (until someone like Williams dies)."

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We and the news media have the attention spans of gnats. Something monumental shocks us into a Rubbernecking Moment... until the next monumental thing comes along. Murder headlines get a whole lot of play and keep us looking, darting from one to the next. Lamenting. Opining. Outraging. Suicides? Not so much. At least not for long. In a previous post-- The aftermath #RIPRobinWilliams-- I wrote the following:

The news media swarm and hyper-focus on huge, painful stories like these, and we all listen and discuss and cry and scream and care immensely.

And then we stop.

We don't stop caring, but we stop being pro-active, because the next Big Story comes along and that wave of emotion or controversy or fear or sadness or tragedy or outrage or terror or death or civil unrest or trauma or injustice comes along and diverts our attention... again.

This country is dysfunctional and needs extended rehab. This country needs to pay attention. We need sustained treatment as a nation, not spot checks. We need to continue to listen, care, and respond, to seek help, to be vigilant, to reach out, to get well. We need to lengthen our attention spans and accept the therapy that will help heal us.

We must listen to and heed the advice we're getting from experts. Hanging ourselves is not an option.

Today in the Los Angeles Times, there was similar reaction to my old improv buddy Robin's tragic death, along with some excellent commentary on treating people with mental illnesses. Please read these very astute letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Depression: It's so deep inside. No one can touch it.

Some days are unexplainable, when you have harmony with the Earth, racking your mind as to why — and knowing your crash awaits. It's lonely as hell.

I don't dismiss hope for a personal cure; I just want to share the unreal depth that embraces these sad souls who have survived countless years of secrets.

Thank you, Robin Williams, for possibly creating an awareness that yes, this can happen to someone as magnificent as you.

For now, much-needed attention is being paid to this issue. But if past tragedies are a guide, the discussion will probably fade over time until it is barely audible, only to be amplified by the next shock.

Cynthia Ingersoll, Sultan, Wash.

..

In 2009, there were about 36,500 suicides in the U.S. and "only" 16,500 homicides. Yet we hear about the murders but not so much about the suicides (until someone like Williams dies).

Likewise, we seldom see any headlines about depression, but depression affects nearly 15 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the population age 18 and older, in a given year. People who think depression is a choice are wrong (and often judgmental). Depression is no more a choice than baldness. However, I can get a hair transplant, but I can't get a brain transplant.

And then there's addiction. Let's just start by saying that the abuse of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs costs more than $600 billion annually due to crime, lost work productivity and healthcare. But again, we seldom hear about addiction unless someone is glamorized.

When will we be proactive and create some preventive measures? This is all treatable and preventable.

Ken Donaldson (Addictions and mental health counselor ), Seminole, Fla.

..

There is a precedent, of course, for Williams' suicide: Comedian and actor Freddie Prinze, who starred in the hit TV series "Chico and the Man," killed himself in 1977 at the age of 22.

Comedy, depression and substance abuse have an attraction to one another. My father was a comedy writer who used vodka and a barbiturate to get through his days. Thankfully, he didn't commit suicide.

Williams' death is surely a tragedy, but it did not come as a shock to me. I hope it shames our culture into taking depression seriously.

Wendy Werris, Los Angeles, CA

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The aftermath #RIPRobinWilliams

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As you know, I am deeply affected and saddened by the death of someone who was a major influence in my life, my old improv buddy, Robin Williams. The aftermath is hitting us hard, as it should.

Please skip the next paragraph if you do not want the horribly unpleasant details of his death.

As I write this, MSNBC is airing a press conference with those details. He apparently hung himself with a belt, and there were superficial cuts on his wrist. There was a pocket knife found nearby, but they can't confirm anything else until further tests are completed. He was clothed. His assistant found him, rigor mortis had already set in. Further information will be released in a few weeks, once toxicology tests and other pertinent information come back, including whether or not there was a note.

I'm beyond heartsick. This can't have happened, but it did. It shouldn't have happened, but it did. Robin Williams was larger than life, but ironically and tragically, life became too big for Robin to handle.

Today on TV, I heard a report by a mental health expert. She told us how important it is for anyone suffering from depression and/or addiction to continue treatment, despite feeling resilient (or reluctant), and that it might not be necessary. Experts keep reminding us to keep seeking help, to be vigilant, to reach out and care for our loved ones. Keep going to rehab, keep going to therapy, they say. And they're right. The news media are saturated with reporting about Robin's life and chronic mental health issues.

Today on TV, I heard a report about the sadness, anger, protests, and retaliation in response to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer. The news media are awash in stories about yet another shooting of another young, unarmed African American.

Today on TV, I heard a report about people starving to death on a scalding hot mountaintop in Iraq at the hands of the terrorist group ISIS. The news media has been all over this horrific story.

The news media swarm and hyper-focus on huge, painful stories like these, and we all listen and discuss and cry and scream and care immensely.

And then we stop.

We don't stop caring, but we stop being pro-active, because the next Big Story comes along and that wave of emotion or controversy or fear or sadness or tragedy or outrage or terror or death or civil unrest or trauma or injustice comes along and diverts our attention... again.

This country is dysfunctional and needs extended rehab. This country needs to pay attention. We need sustained treatment as a nation, not spot checks. We need to continue to listen, care, and respond, to seek help, to be vigilant, to reach out, to get well. We need to lengthen our attention spans and accept the therapy that will help heal us.

We must listen to and heed the advice we're getting from experts. Hanging ourselves is not an option.

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VIDEO: President Obama Speaks on the Death of Nelson Mandela

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President Obama eloquently delivered remarks on the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela. Here are a few excerpts, transcript courtesy of WaPo:

He achieved more than could be expected of any man.

Today he's gone home and we've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth...

His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better...

As he once said, "I'm not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."

I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life. My very first political action -- the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics was a protest against apartheid. I would study his words and his writings. The day he was released from prison it gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears.

And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set...

I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.

To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal and reconciliation and resilience that you made real: a free South Africa at peace with itself. That's an example to the world, and that's Madiba's legacy to the nation that he loved.

We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again, so it falls to us as best we can to (forward ?) the example that he set -- to make decisions guided not by hate but by love, never discount the difference that one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived, a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.

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LIVE VIDEO FEED- Pres. Obama's statement on the passing of Nelson Mandela 5:20pm ET

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over

Paddy posted the sad news here: R.I.P. Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

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