Mourns Robin Williams, and Other Top 2014 Stories 

Memorial to Robin WilliamsThe apparent suicide of Robin Williams sparked a national outpouring of grief, especially since the man who played Patch Adams had played such a significant role in improving the lives of so many suffering people. Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, the CEO and founder of, echoed the feelings many experienced in his piece, Finding Compassion and Hope After the Loss of Robin Williams. Andrea Schneider, LCSW, a Topic Expert on learning difficulties, highlighted the need for excellent depression care in her piece, Depression Doesn’t Have to be a Life (or Death) Sentence. Tonya Ladipo, LCSW, a relational psychotherapy Topic Expert emphasized the ways in which suicide victimizes the loved ones who are left behind in Let’s Not Forget About Suicide’s Unsuspecting Victims.

The story of Robin Williams was not the only tragedy to affect the world of mental health this year. Early in the year, we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman to a heroin overdose, and toward the end of the year, a nationwide conversation on racism followed the shooting deaths of black males by police officers. Whether we’re discussing the unconscious racism that exists not just among police but also in our society at large, or the chronic illness diagnosis and depression that led Robin Williams to take his own life, these are the kinds of discussions that are critical for raising awareness and creating change.

Looking back, we selected some of the most influential stories of the year that have garnered attention and inspired conversation around mental health concerns.

The NFL Drafts Its First Openly Gay Player

Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, was drafted as a seventh-round pick by the St. Louis Rams this year. Sam’s draft was the subject of much controversy, with his own father allegedly expressing concern about a gay player in the NFL. Though gay rights advocates lauded the decision to draft Sam, he is now a free agent and never played in a regular-season game.

Untested Rape Kits Re-victimize Rape Survivors

At least 200,000 rape kits have been left untested nationwide, and the numbers may be steadily rising. As a result, rape survivors may face a phone call years or even decades later alerting them that their kit has finally been tested. This delayed justice can feel like denied justice, and may undermine the healing process. Untested rape kits can also create the illusion that rape is an unimportant crime and that locating rapists is not a priority for police departments.

Understanding Racial Disparities in Police Shootings

Anger in response to police brutality erupted this year, with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, figuring prominently in the debate. Several recent studies aim to explain how police who feel no conscious bias can still engage in behavior that appears racist. Black children may be perceived as older and less sympathetic than they are, for example, while adult black people are often viewed as less than human, or even supernatural. Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown, referred to Brown as a “demon.” Though stories about police brutality are often upsetting, some mental health professionals have reached out to the Ferguson community to attempt to help them move past the trauma.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Overtakes Social Media

In just a few short days, the ALS ice bucket challenge came to dominate Facebook and other social media platforms. This devastating disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), was largely unknown before this campaign. Though some people had heard of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, once the campaign was underway, millions of people became aware of the degenerative nature of the disease that leads, ultimately, to total paralysis. The campaign asked challenge recipients to donate to an ALS charity or dump a bucket of ice water on themselves. Many participants opted to both donate and dump the bucket of ice.

How Meditation, Visualization, and Respect Helped the Seahawks Succeed

Meditation and visualization have long been used to soothe anxious minds and improve mental health. But the Seattle Seahawks may have used these practices to achieve their 2014 Super Bowl win. The team relied on the help of sports psychologist Mike Gervais to focus their attention on winning and visualize a win. The team also encourages a collegial environment, offering to team members who are struggling the assistance of support staff.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Raises Addiction Awareness

Between 2002 and 2012, heroin use increased 102%, sparking what the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called a problem of “epic proportions.” The tragic death of famed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman sparked an outpouring of grief, as well as a resurgence of interest in and concern about addiction. Hoffman himself recognized the role public awareness could play in addiction treatment, allegedly remarking to a friend, “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.”

Donald Sterling’s Racist Comments and Racial Microaggressions

Racist comments by Donald Sterling, then-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, sparked a national discussion about the role of racism in sports and the ways in which subtle attitudes affect behavior. covered the ways in which racial microaggressions can create a hostile climate for racial minorities.

Facebook’s Experiments on Users

In July, reported on a Facebook experiment on its users’ emotions. The study subtly altered the news stories users saw, testing how this affected their emotions. Later, Facebook revealed its involvement in another study, which purported to affect 2012 election turnout. Ethical studies typically require informed consent, so this research deviates from most well-accepted norms for scientific data collection.

NFL’s Domestic Violence Scandal

After video surfaced of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée unconscious, a massive public outcry encouraged the NFL to change the way it handles domestic violence cases. The league is currently exploring programs designed to reduce domestic violence. After the backlash inspired some bloggers to blame victims for staying with their abusers, covered why some victims choose to stay.

© Copyright 2014 All rights reserved.

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Petra


    December 31st, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    So many noteworthy stories form 2014, some that I have to be honest and say that I didn’t even remember until reading about them again here. A great way to look back on the past year.

  • Coley


    December 31st, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    I hope that next year there is another good cause that makes the rounds on social media because I think that the one for the ALS challenge was the best one yet at raising awareness of a disease that many people were not familiar with and also raising a lot of money to put into the research efforts.

  • randall


    January 2nd, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    It made me even more proud to be an out gay man after Michael Sam came out last year.
    I know that his decision to come out was probably a lot different from mine. Even though I had people in my family that I worried about I did not have to do all of this on a national stage, so it was good to see that this is becoming more the norm than it once was and that more and more men and women are feeling more open to being who they actually are instead of always feeling the need to hide.

  • Mikal


    January 3rd, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    I so hope that 2015 can be a true time of racial healing and reconciliation in our country.

  • jade


    January 5th, 2015 at 11:06 AM


  • Rosa


    January 6th, 2015 at 3:54 AM

    Wow there sure were a lot of events last year that brought race to the forefront of society and news once again!

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