Laughter: Healthcare’s Best Medicine – Behavioral Health and the loss of an Icon

LaughterSome months ago, I wrote about the role of happiness in our lives and the role it plays. Robin Williams played an important role for over 30 years in making the world a happier place. Sadly, he did not feel that he found that himself with his untimely passing last week, which shocked the world.

The role of mental health has taken a huge step into the limelight due to his passing. The closest I got to that was when I worked at a Neurology Clinic some years ago and saw the important work that was being done there by an interesting (pink haired) head of department who was an extremely empathetic person.

The disease, often stigmatized, has now been thrust front and center into a world that may not be ready for it, but we need to be. The need for behavioral health services are grave, from school shootings to celebrity suicides. The “Great Recession” also brought forth many losses, especially for people who lost their homes, their retirement savings and their former occupations and had to start from scratch.  A recent article (in US News – Health) after Mr. William’s death, said that according to WHO estimates, about 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, which is a staggering number, and I suspect, rising. With the number of veterans coming back from two wars over the last dozen years and the toll it has taken on themselves, the atrocities that they have seen on the battlefield and the loss of a “normal” family life, the need for mental health facilities in our nation has been greater than it has ever been. The need for access and infrastructure for these facilities, trained mental health care providers and the appropriate infrastructure and support mechanisms for follow up or continuous access (do I see a role for mHealth in this?) and continuity of care for patients who travel across geographies make our role as healthcare IT professionals even more important than ever before.

For healthcare providers and individuals engaged in projects to re-mediate applications covering the behavioral health ecosystem, the American Psychiatric Association, in 2013, updated the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (aka DSM-5) which will impact clinical diagnosis, billing, contracts, compliance and more in the psychiatric world in terms of treatment recommendations as it is often determined by their DSM classifications. The need for up to date systems, continuity of care and relevant policies and protocols cannot come soon enough. Sadly, we have seen the effects of a system that hasn’t saved enough of our fellow Americans. All lives are precious and the loss of even one to the effects of depression is a sad event.

So, I ask you, after reading this, to find an old video of Robin Williams in one of his indelible roles; whether as a seemingly helpful Scottish Nanny to his children, an animated Genie from a lamp or, in his break out role as the lovable, yet quirky alien from Ork, watch it and remember an icon has passed and we are all the better for him being a part of our lives for as long as he was.

Thank you Robin Williams for the joy you gave us. You will be missed.

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