Awareness is key

Local mental health professional reacts to Robin Williams' death
Caitlin Nearhood
Aug 13, 2014 

In the wake of recent tragedy, hope can be found for those who need help.

The news of Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams’ suicide shocked the world Monday night. Williams had bouts of alcoholism and substance abuse in the past and recently checked himself back into rehab.

With Williams’ death come questions, concerns and conversation about suicide, depression and substance addiction. Unknowingly, each problem can be connected to each other.

“What most people don’t know is that it’s not uncommon to be a mental health client and be involved with substance abuse,” said Joey Supina, director of Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center.

Supina, a member of the Ohio Empowerment Coalition and the Ohio Citizens Advocates for Addiction Recovery, understands that mental illness has been touched with bad stigma for several years, but stresses the importance of talking about it to aid in awareness and need for attention.

“It occurs not only on the celebrity level, but on normal level—mental illness occurs in quite a few families,” he said.

People with a mental illness tend to self-medicate themselves, thinking that drugs or alcohol will wash their problems away. Unfortunately, according to Supina, this isn’t the case and it’s not uncommon.

“They think it alleviates the pain, but in reality, it makes it worse,” he said.

Whether we know it or not, we’re all affected by mental illness.

“You’re either affected directly by it through a loved one, or indirectly by paying taxes,” he said.

Since the aspect of community is important during the recovery process, peers who struggled with depression, mental illness, or addiction should mentor those with problems now.

“You have to be a peer to be a peer supporter,” he said. “The peer supporter can make sure their mentee goes to their appointments, takes their medication, and overall serve as accountability for that person.”

Supina recommends contacting local organizations for those seeking assistance with their condition.

“Get in touch with Sandusky Artisans, Bayshore Counseling, or other community organizations and they can help you,” he said.

Henrietta Whelan, director of Bayshore Counseling in Sandusky, could not be reached for comment.

Supina hopes that people understand that mental illness needs to be talked about, without its stigma.

“This is a problem that affects all of America, but there is a solution,” he said.

Supina will also appear on “Between the Lines” Friday at noon. Watch the program live at 

Click HERE for the Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center's blog


How can people help?

Supina gives five tips for helping those with mental illness and addiction problems:

1.      Give people hope. “They need to know that there is a solution to their problem,” Supina said.

2.      Get them to a doctor. “They need professionals who can help treat them,” he said.

3.      Give them a place of their own to live.

4.      Give them a purpose to live. “It can be a small job or another task to give them a purpose," he said. 

5.      Give them a community. “People with depression and addiction need peers around them for support to encourage them. Peers that have been through depression or addiction can help those who are going through it now,” he said.


Need help?

If you need more information on mental illness and depression or want seek treatment at local facilities, call the Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center at 419-621-9377 or Bayshore Counseling at 419-626-9156. 



Unless people want to make a change, nothing will change until they change their thinking. turn off the tv, stop reading negative things and look for something for which you can be greatful. We, as a society, are bombarded with so much negativity, 24/7, that it's no wonder there is so much depression, substance abuse and domestic violence.


Yes, environment is a huge contributor to the development of mental illness, but in the case of depression, biology plays the biggest role. Yes, people with mental illness have to want to get better to actually get better.


Media's cashing in on the tragedy and it's reprehensible, because it will cause a lot more suicides. They do because it works. It's up to use to tune them out and turn them off.


Caitlin Nearhood, I would like you to post the degrees held by Mr. Supina, those that make him a mental health professional. Where did he attend college, does he hold a bachelors or a masters degree? What licensure does he hold?
I would love to know his educational background, do you have any information?


worddrow811 depression is not something that is treated by changing ones thinking, nor is it something brought on by being bombarded with so much negativity, 24/7. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is not just being sad or down in the dumps. The medical field should come up with a different word to describe this illness other than depression. When people hear somebody is suffering from depression it's easy for them to think "oh they just need to pull them selves up by their boot straps, suck it up, and get over it". If only it was that easy. RIP Robin Williams.


some may be caused by chemical imbalance or hormones not functioning, but not all, so you are correct in that area. People who are in a constant state of negativity are depressing to be around and it is their thinking, in those cases, which may cause the sadness. We all need to look for joy in our lives and I speak from experience. Robin Williams did not think about the pain and sadness that he would cause others by the ending of his life from hanging. I am not going to be depressed about it, though I feel sorry for the loved-ones that he left to deal with such a brutal ending.

yea right

I dislike know it alls. You seem to have all the answers huh. I guess you can save the planet too..I bet you never had any imperfect thoughts..ever had a love one pass. I bet you just suck it up and get on with it huh.
Today's philosophy is EVERYBODY is crazy. Only a few have gotten caught


@ yea right, I'm not sure if your comments were directed to me, but just so you know, I don't have all the answers and never said that I did. However, my biggest change came from changing my thoughts and not labeling things, for example as you said 'imperfect thoughts' in your comment. From where on Earth do you think those thoughts come? We are blank slates when we come here as babies and I have yet to see a depressed baby or an alcoholic child. Yes, there are drug-addicted babies born to drug-addicted mothers and that is an exception not related to this.

I also don't believe in the suck it up theory of dealing with stuff. Sucking it up only causes more issues. Has no one ever told you to honor your feelings and if you're sad, be sad, set the timer for thirty minutes and think about what makes you happy. I can tell you right now to go stand in a corner and cry, but would you? Of course not.

To anyone who is being a sponge for other people, learn to say no. When someone asks you what are you doing now, they are going to follow that with a request of some kind, whether it's for money, time or your stuff. Learn to say no if you don't want to do whatever because you are being used and no true friend does that to anyone. If you don't stand up for yourself, who will? Oh and don't say they won't like you if you don't let them walk all over you. They are takers and are robbing you blind if you don't say no and they are not worth your time. Find new friends!


Even very young children can suffer from depression.


You truly do not understand major clinical depression. Oftentimes trying to look at all the blessings and positives in one's life only ends up making a depressed person feel more guilty and hopeless because despite all of those positives, they still are so depressed. Major depression cannot be "cured" by looking at the bright side. That is one of the huge myths and contributes to the stigma of major clinical depression.
Allow me to put it this way: Imagine the worst day of your life, when you were overcome with sadness, hopelessness, grief, and despair. Imagine you can't help but cry all hours of the day and night, either can't sleep or sleep all the time to escape, cannot think clearly at all, and see no hope of it getting better. Imagine waking up at 2:00 am sobbing for no apparent reason for hours at a time. Imagine feeling like this day after day, week after week, and for the life of you you don't know why and nothing helps. Imagine your thinking is so clouded you think everyone you know would be better off without you. On top of that, imagine no one being there for you because they either don't know what to do, or think you should just "look at the bright side and all you have going for you". Imagine feeling like you did on the worse day of your life day after day for no apparent reason.
That is major depression.

yea right

My wife of over 20 yrs is major depressive and anxiety and bipolar. So yea I think I know something. I put her in a very positive place all the time. But when you have physical disabilities and the quack Dr sees her mental illness they think she makes it up. It is very real everyday. One just can not suck it up


"...depression is not something that is treated by changing ones thinking..."

Changing ones thinking IS a form of treatment, it's called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Personally, I think a combination of CBT and medications is the most effective in treating depression. Finding the right medication is the toughest task, however; there's so many subclasses of antidepressants and so many medications in these subclasses.


Many times, however, the changing in the thinking is in regard to the symptoms of depression and how to handle it, not to not get depressed. Major clinical depression almost always has a biological component, especially if it is not situational (related to external factors).


Let me help you Caitlin, he has none, not one degree or licensure for him to speak out as an authority on mental illness.
What he does have is the gift of gab and a cult of personality. He has remained sober for 40 yrs, however he remained sober the first 30 by indulging in his other addictions.
I do admire his intentions to help those afflicted with an addiction but the SR has no business holding him up as a "mental health professional".


I have to agree with Sugar. Joe has no medical background in any areas or any type of credentials to give any type of medical advice to anyone. The faces he and his wife present to the media are very different than what goes on in those 12 step meetings.


If Mr. Supina were a bonafide health care/mental health professional he would be under the demands and scrutinity of a licensing board.
True professionals must meet certain requirements to call themselves professionals, to speak out and granted forums as a professional. Mr. Supina may have an insiders knowledge and can parrot what he has learned along the way but he does not have the educational background, or proof of his knowledge from an accredited institution or board.