Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

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Anagarika
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Anagarika » Thu Aug 14, 2014 12:21 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
The article really does not say much. "just as effective as antidepressant drugs in treating anxiety or depressions" It depends, of course, how severe the depression is.
There are studies ongoing at U Wisconsin-Madison with veterans suffering depression and anxiety comorbid with PTSD, where meditation allowed some to get off of medication. However, these subjects were in a controlled environment, with trained clinicians and teachers, lead by Dr. Richard Davidson, a renowned clinician and meditator himself.

Other studies with people with severe, chronic depression showed the introduction of ketamine to lift severe depression, suggesting the significant brain chemical component to chronic depression.

Meditation may not help people with severe depression any more than it may help people with a broken leg. Both illnesses require medical treatment by trained clinicians. Can meditation be effective, as was shown in Dr. Davidson's studies, in mitigating the need for medication for some sufferers? Absolutely. See http://vimeo.com/43626665

Robin Williams seems like such a complex personality. Intractable internal suffering mitigated by busyness, humor, and over the top expression. Kind of like the veteran in the "Free the Mind" documentary, who lifted weights and exercised constantly to avoid the depression and anxiety, and suicide ideation. Mr. Williams had pre-existing depression addictions, along with financial issues that he seemed to not manage appropriately. One day, the Black Dog took hold of him and wouldn't let go, and lacking the assistance of someone to help him, he decided to escape the only way that, at the moment, he saw fit. Tragic.


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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by rowboat » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:07 pm

Robin Williams's wife has reported that the actor was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson's Disease.
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mkoll » Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:23 am

Anagarika wrote:Other studies with people with severe, chronic depression showed the introduction of ketamine to lift severe depression, suggesting the significant brain chemical component to chronic depression.
Perhaps. Another possibility is the drastic and powerful change in perspective that ketamine can induce on a person, allowing them to see their problems in a new light.

Similar studies have been done with psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA, showing positive outcomes.

The problem is these drugs are illegal in most places so there aren't many studies on them. In the 60's and 70's, before they were made illegal, psychiatrists and psychotherapists used them and similar drugs to treat mental disorders.
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Anagarika » Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:59 am

Mkoll wrote:
Anagarika wrote:Other studies with people with severe, chronic depression showed the introduction of ketamine to lift severe depression, suggesting the significant brain chemical component to chronic depression.
Perhaps. Another possibility is the drastic and powerful change in perspective that ketamine can induce on a person, allowing them to see their problems in a new light.

Similar studies have been done with psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA, showing positive outcomes.

The problem is these drugs are illegal in most places so there aren't many studies on them. In the 60's and 70's, before they were made illegal, psychiatrists and psychotherapists used them and similar drugs to treat mental disorders.
James, I took my comment from a long piece done by NPR on the use of IV ketamine to break chronic sufferers from clinical depression out of their depressive state. The piece suggested that when nothing else worked, ketamine had a profound impact on their level of depression; some has been on typical SSRIs for years with little relief. Certainly, much more needs to be done by way of analysis of this. Here's just one story on this issue: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatt ... epression/

(edit) and another: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2014/140403.html

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mkoll » Fri Aug 15, 2014 1:33 am

Anagarika wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
Anagarika wrote:Other studies with people with severe, chronic depression showed the introduction of ketamine to lift severe depression, suggesting the significant brain chemical component to chronic depression.
Perhaps. Another possibility is the drastic and powerful change in perspective that ketamine can induce on a person, allowing them to see their problems in a new light.

Similar studies have been done with psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA, showing positive outcomes.

The problem is these drugs are illegal in most places so there aren't many studies on them. In the 60's and 70's, before they were made illegal, psychiatrists and psychotherapists used them and similar drugs to treat mental disorders.
James, I took my comment from a long piece done by NPR on the use of IV ketamine to break chronic sufferers from clinical depression out of their depressive state. The piece suggested that when nothing else worked, ketamine had a profound impact on their level of depression; some has been on typical SSRIs for years with little relief. Certainly, much more needs to be done by way of analysis of this. Here's just one story on this issue: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatt ... epression/

(edit) and another: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2014/140403.html
I see, thanks for the links. They are definitely talking about the brain chemical component as you said. My post had more to do with the controlled psychotherapeutic use of ketamine and other illicit drugs. There's probably a place for both approaches, depending on the drug, the person, what's being treated, etc.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Dan74 » Fri Aug 15, 2014 4:54 am

Ben wrote:
Thank you Dan for sharing.
I am saddened by your own struggle but happy that you were able to navigate your way out of the sargasso.

I have not disclosed this publicly before, but now seems to be the right time.
Clinical depression is something that has been a constant companion since 1976. Some periods have been more difficult than others and there haven't been many days when I haven't woken up with the first thought being one of suicide. Words cannot express how difficult, exhausting, limiting it has been - and continues to be.
Fortunately for me, I have been able to manage it. In one sense, I am thankful for it as it propelled me in a direction that led me to the Dhamma. I manage depression not just through meditation but a raft of strategies that include diet, exercise, maintaining important relationships, a whole-of-life approach to integrating the Dhamma into my daily life, therapy and pharmaceutical intervention. I have a very knowledgeable and compassionate person in my family doctor who I can see from time to time and my wife is a psychologist.
My heart goes out to anyone who suffers from this terrible organic condition, especially to those who either do not have a robust safety net or who don't make it.
Just a little clarification to things I have said earlier...
I strongly advocate that those who suffer from depression should continue with their Dhamma practice and not replace a treatment regime with just meditation.
I suspect many here would not approve of someone preferring to treat a broken leg, diabetes, or cancer with just meditation. Depression is no different - it is an organic condition that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Different people react differently to pharmacological treatment regimes and most SSRI medications can take six weeks to become efficacious. It's not a silver bullet which is why people with depression should (IMHO)'be under the guidance and supervision of trained professionals.
If anyone here is suffering from acute depression, I recommend that you seek immediate assistance. Speak to your family doctor, talk to your family, talk to your teacher or kalayanamitta.
With metta,
Ben
Thank you for sharing so openly, Ben. I feel it's important to know we are not alone in these struggles and support one another, if it's only with a word of encouragement or a sympathetic ear. I am deeply impressed by the stoicism and fortitude of people like you, who in spite of the suffering, work hard, maintain relationships and practice the Dhamma. "When going through hell, keep going."
_/|\_

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Zom » Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:07 pm

Subj - meditation can aggravate mental illnesses, I personally know several examples (one monk even gone mad, literally). Meditation is not a cure for depression - this is a tool that should be used by clean and wise mind, generally at the end of the buddhist path.

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mkoll » Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:15 pm

Zom wrote:this is a tool that should be used by clean and wise mind, generally at the end of the buddhist path.
Can you illustrate further about what you mean here?
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Anagarika » Sat Aug 16, 2014 4:29 pm

"You find there are a lot of thoughts that get you depressed and get you angry. They really get in the way of any clarity in your mind. And if you realize you have the choice to go with them or not as you like, then you're in a position of freedom. You're over them rather than their being over you."

— Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Unskillful Thinking)

I think that clinical depression takes this factor of choice away. For a brain undamaged by chemical imbalance, we can train this brain and take command of our thoughts and reactions to these thoughts. For a brain influenced by chemical imbalance, be it serotonin, or whatever imbalances create the Black Dog that follows with every step, the possibility of choosing clarity is impaired. I'm very glad that clinicians who are also meditators, such as Dr. Davidson (infra), are becoming involved in this issue of depression and meditation.

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Aug 16, 2014 9:50 pm

Its' a case of tying to use an "ultimate reality" description to dismiss any concern with conventional concepts of suffering, compassion, and so on. In Zen and other Mahayana schools it is sometimes called "emptiness sickness".

See, for example:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 40#p196653
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 140#p23799

:anjali:
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by martinfrank » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:12 pm

Anagarika wrote:"You find there are a lot of thoughts that get you depressed and get you angry. They really get in the way of any clarity in your mind. And if you realize you have the choice to go with them or not as you like, then you're in a position of freedom. You're over them rather than their being over you."

— Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Unskillful Thinking)

I think that clinical depression takes this factor of choice away. For a brain undamaged by chemical imbalance, we can train this brain and take command of our thoughts and reactions to these thoughts. For a brain influenced by chemical imbalance, be it serotonin, or whatever imbalances create the Black Dog that follows with every step, the possibility of choosing clarity is impaired. I'm very glad that clinicians who are also meditators, such as Dr. Davidson (infra), are becoming involved in this issue of depression and meditation.
I just spent half a day in the forest and in a doctor's office trying to nurse a 35 year old male (Theravada Buddhist) back from suicidal hopelessness caused by several serious diseases and too many medications. Depression is a killer disease! As Buddhists we are in the difficult position that we know that all things are impermanent and don't belong to us, that all formations are painful, AND we want to help, give hope and inspire the will to live. How can we show convincingly the joy of impermanence, the serenity of owning nothing, the hope of ending all suffering? Because of the already too many medications the guy has to take it was not possible to give him antidepressants immediately. An engaged (Tibetan Buddhism) Buddhist lady doctor brought him back to life with calm talk and acupuncture.

(I don't mean to say Acupuncture is a cure for Clinical Depression. The problem was how to get him through the next few days. Later a clinical team will take care of his complex medical problems and they will be able to find an antidepressant for him which doesn't negatively interact with all the medications he has to take.)

Isn't sometimes the best way to use meditation against depression when we who want to help meditate to get the strength to help more and better?
Last edited by martinfrank on Sun Aug 17, 2014 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mkoll » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:44 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Its' a case of tying to use an "ultimate reality" description to dismiss any concern with conventional concepts of suffering, compassion, and so on. In Zen and other Mahayana schools it is sometimes called "emptiness sickness".

See, for example:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 40#p196653
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 140#p23799

:anjali:
Mike
That's more likely than my hypothesis.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mkoll » Sun Aug 17, 2014 12:38 pm

Emptiness sickness indeed.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Feathers » Sun Aug 17, 2014 2:12 pm

Ben wrote: Thank you Dan for sharing.
I am saddened by your own struggle but happy that you were able to navigate your way out of the sargasso.

I have not disclosed this publicly before, but now seems to be the right time.
Clinical depression is something that has been a constant companion since 1976. Some periods have been more difficult than others and there haven't been many days when I haven't woken up with the first thought being one of suicide. Words cannot express how difficult, exhausting, limiting it has been - and continues to be.
Fortunately for me, I have been able to manage it. In one sense, I am thankful for it as it propelled me in a direction that led me to the Dhamma. I manage depression not just through meditation but a raft of strategies that include diet, exercise, maintaining important relationships, a whole-of-life approach to integrating the Dhamma into my daily life, therapy and pharmaceutical intervention. I have a very knowledgeable and compassionate person in my family doctor who I can see from time to time and my wife is a psychologist.
My heart goes out to anyone who suffers from this terrible organic condition, especially to those who either do not have a robust safety net or who don't make it.
Just a little clarification to things I have said earlier...
I strongly advocate that those who suffer from depression should continue with their Dhamma practice and not replace a treatment regime with just meditation.
I suspect many here would not approve of someone preferring to treat a broken leg, diabetes, or cancer with just meditation. Depression is no different - it is an organic condition that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Different people react differently to pharmacological treatment regimes and most SSRI medications can take six weeks to become efficacious. It's not a silver bullet which is why people with depression should (IMHO)'be under the guidance and supervision of trained professionals.
If anyone here is suffering from acute depression, I recommend that you seek immediate assistance. Speak to your family doctor, talk to your family, talk to your teacher or kalayanamitta.
With metta,
Ben
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

I'll add what I've said before on this subject: depression is real, medical . . . and hugely individual. One person may find one drug/therapy/approach helpful, another may find it dangerous. Much research needs to be done, and much care needs to be taken when treating it.

Ben, if you are able to talk more about how you keep going, I would be very grateful - in PM if you would rather not respond publicly. I have been affected by this constantly since 2007, I have no idea how you have managed to live with it since 1976. To endure that long seems like a herculean accomplishment.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dhammawheel thread on tools for managing depression

Feathers
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Feathers » Sun Aug 17, 2014 3:24 pm

martinfrank wrote:
(Up to 40mg Cipralex, up to 400 mg Trittico, plus Deanxit, plus Perilla Oil, plus Ritalin... I know what I am talking about) When I was in a Thai monastery meditating most of the day, I didn't need any medication after two weeks and stayed off medication for several months afterwards. What kind of meditation works for you (the other depression guys on the forum)? What seems to make depression worse? What is the subtle mechanism which transforms a chemical imbalance of the brain into an emotion? Why do we fall into an abyss?

...


This forum is so rich in depressed guys that it is almost a Flat Dhamma Wheel... :cry:
I'm glad meditation helps you :-)

Personally, lamotrigine and escitalopram keep me from being properly weird and actually looking for ways to die, respectively. Other than that, I try to function. If I can do my job (i.e. keep my own income going, stay independent, stay a functioning part of society), that's what matters. Energy for anything else is optional.

As for what else helps . . . there seems to have been a part of me that has decided I'm going to live. It takes over when things get properly bad :shrug:

Meditation, at the moment, is another thing on the long list of things I 'should be doing but am failing to do'.

I like the idea of trying to come up with a form of meditation (of Buddhist practice overall?) that is targeted at depression, but I am not sure it is possible to find one unified approach that will treat all depressions (and associated conditions). Perhaps a toolbox of things to try?

And yes, there do seem to be rather a lot of depressed people here - but then, this forum is mostly people who have found Buddhism rather than growing up with it, and one of the common reasons for starting a spiritual search is suffering, so I guess it's to be expected.
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Dhammawheel thread on tools for managing depression

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