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Celebrities & Addiction: When Drugs End it All

For Immediate Release
August 18, 2014

Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl Benzio Says Celebrity Deaths Show Depression and Addiction Are Personal Struggles; Relate to People Everywhere

Philadelphia—It’s been one week since the death of legendary comedic actor Robin Williams, and the world is still asking how such a seemingly jovial man on the outside could be plagued by such darkness on the inside.

A California coroner ruled 63-year-old Williams’ death a suicide by hanging, confirming the tragedy of the last hours of the Academy Award-winning actor’s life. On Thursday, Williams’ wife revealed that he was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, and friends and family said earlier in a statement that Williams had been battling “severe depression of late.”

Dr. Karl Benzio, a psychiatrist and founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network (www.lighthousenetwork.org), an addiction and mental health counseling helpline, said one of the first symptoms of Parkinson’s is often depression, and depression is also common among those who battle addiction.

“Depression can stem from medical issues, such as Parkinson’s, postpartum depression or cancer,” Benzio said. “At other times, depression is a result of open wounds that we are unsure how to heal. When we add depression to drug and alcohol abuse, the effects can be devastating. No one is immune to the tragedy caused by the tentacles of depression. Robin Williams’ sad death is a grim reminder of how complex behavioral health issues are to understand, live with and treat. We can’t toss the same blanket over everyone struggling with depression or put the same bandage on everyone battling addiction. Depression and substance abuse are very personal struggles and the treatment is different for each and every person.

“This is why getting a thorough evaluation from a psychiatrist is so important, and because depression can involve medical, psychological and spiritual issues—and because all three are vital to the healing process—it’s important to work with a psychiatrist who can evaluate all three.”

Williams was open about his struggle with drugs and alcohol and entered a rehab program earlier this summer. Benzio added that the immense pressure of stardom, coupled with Williams’ depression and struggles with past addiction, may have contributed to his death.

“Celebrities often set the bar so high that continuing to reach that level of perfection is difficult and draining,” Benzio said. “Stars often feel the need to continue to be famous in order to earn the appreciation, attention or love of others. They feel they will lose this admiration if they fail, so there are immense amounts of pressure to succeed and always be ‘on.’ Likewise, celebrities often can’t truly be themselves, fearing criticism by some faction—and the negativity is plentiful. Society puts celebrity mistakes under a microscope.

“Over the years, we have seen Robin Williams perform character after memorable character,” Benzio said. “Perhaps this gifted, sensitive actor felt he really couldn’t be himself, but rather, had to live through the facade of someone else on a stage and under the lights. Eventually, however, those with similar struggles can no longer run from who they are and sooner or later must stop playing a role in life. Instead, they must deal with reality. For some, turning to addiction helps them deal. For others, a depressive state ensues when the reality is just too much.”

Benzio added that those who are concerned about a friend or loved one battling depression or addiction should reach out for help through a trusted mental health resource or hospital. And the most effective help will incorporate God into the healing process, because without Him, no amount of rehab, treatment or medication can bring lasting healing and transformation

Lighthouse Network offers a free, 24-hour helpline, 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242) for those who are struggling and for their family and friends. Lighthouse Network also provides online resources for those concerned about a friend or a loved one. Visit www.lighthousenetwork.org/im-family-a-friend.

Benzio shares insights on various mental health issues in the one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” airing on approximately 425 radio stations across the country, including 200 stations in the American Family Radio Network. The purpose of the “Life Change” program is to bring scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine some common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s obstacles and enjoy fulfilled lives. For more information on “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” visit www.lighthousenetwork.org/life-change-with-dr-karl/.

Lighthouse Networkworks to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).

Lighthouse Network’s web site, www.lighthousenetwork.org,provides information to those struggling to find help for their addiction problems, as well as to family members searching for help for a loved one. Topics addressed include alcohol abuse, addictions, and other mental health or life management issues.

Lighthouse Network offers several resources for those struggling with addiction and their families, such as Stepping Stones, a free daily devotional for managing life’s stressors and storms and equipping readers with healthy decision-making skills. Visit www.lighthousenetwork.org/stepping-stones/ to read the devotionals and sign up to receive them daily via email.

For more information on Lighthouse Network, visit www.lighthousenetwork.org or call the Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).

To schedule interviews with Dr. Karl Benzio at Lighthouse Network, contact Deborah Hamilton at dhamilton@hamiltonstrategies.com, 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096.

Lighthouse Network is a Christian-based, non-profit organization that offers an addiction and mental health counseling helpline providing treatment options and resources to equip people and organizations with the skills necessary to shine God’s glory to the world, stand strong on a solid foundation in the storms of their own lives, and provide guidance and safety to others experiencing stormy times, thus impacting their lives, their families and the world.

Dr. Karl Benzio, M.D. is the founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network. With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, Benzio went on to medical school and then specialized in psychiatry. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students counseling and conflict resolution skills in Uganda and Kenya; leading a behavioral health team into post-Hussein Iraq to equip health care specialists with treatment and assessment skills and successfully testifying for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives opposing legislation for Plan B contraception administration and for President George Bush’s Council on Bioethics regarding Right of Conscience. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council. His specialties include Adolescents, Addictions, Decision-Making, Infusing Spirituality into Practical Treatment Modalities and the Ramifications of Decision-Making on Social Policy

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