We will always wonder why such a high-profile, successful comedic genius like Robin Williams decided to end his life.

Williams’ tragic passing at a time when he was severely depressed raises awareness of depression and other mental illnesses.

It is unacceptable that every 16 minutes, somebody in the U.S. commits suicide.

Surprisingly, there is not much being done toward prevention, nationally and locally. Between 2009 and 2011, states cumulatively cut more than $1.8 billion from their budgets for mental health services.

In 2012, the Obama administration cut funding for the National Institute of Mental Health by $12 million, on top of a 5 percent reduction from cutbacks.

In addition to the loss of funding for treatment, another issue with mental illness is the stigma.

Society has painted the picture that depression is a sign of weakness or that one is broken and dysfunctional. Depression is a serious mental illness that is treatable, yet 80 percent of those with depression are not seeking help because of stigma.

Despite the strong research base in warning signs and risk factors, it’s hard to proactively identify individuals likely to commit suicide; we only recognize the patterns in retrospect, when it’s too late.

If only we acknowledge that surviving depression takes special toughness and courage, we will not see formerly depressed people as broken or weak, but as an inspiration who can teach us all about overcoming adversity.

As the 2014 student commencement speaker and former editor at the University of Southern Maine Free Press, I have voiced my struggles with depression in hopes to create awareness.

I feel obliged to continue my advocacy for mental health and hope that others feel inspired to reach out for help. If I could do that, then I have done my part.

Anna Chiu

Portland