Robin Williams' Death Shines a Light on Depression
By William Jiang, MLS
We Still Need a More Open Discourse on Mental Illness
I have been putting off writing about the death of Mr. Williams. Although I never met the man, I still smile when I think of his comedic antics. He made me laugh so so many times. It was shocking and sad to hear of his suicide. I remember I learned of his death on Facebook. It was a gray day.
I feel Robin William’s untimely death teaches us a lot about mental illness and specifically clinical depression in today's USA. In 2020 clinical depression will be the new number one cause of long term death and disability, worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, so a conversation about depression and suicide needs to happen. The stigma of depression and mental illnesses of all kinds must end because, in the end, the stigma of mental illness kills people just as surely as the illness itself. Not only must the person deal with low mood and feelings of hopelessness and isolation due to the mental illnesses themselves, but the shame and further isolation of the stigma associated with the illnesses is an additional stressor.
They say it is lonely at the top. Robin Williams said, “The worst thing in life is not to end up all alone. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” When one is a rich star who makes his money in mirth, the last thing he wants to project to the public is that he is not feeling like laughing all the time. What a personal hell that poor man was in, trying to live up to the public’s perception of him as a comic character. I have a feeling the pressure of being two people—the comic and the man—suffering with depression caused a cleft in his mind and life.
We should all be comfortable with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, in the sense that if we break a leg we are not a broken leg. We have a broken leg. If we become depressed, we are not a depressive. We are a person worthy of love and respect who is struggling with a dangerous beast that lives within called depression.
The US and the world society needs to come out of the dark ages and have an open and honest discussion about mental illnesses of all types. Why? We need our sparkling gems of people, all imperfect, like Mr. Robin Williams, to continue to sparkle- all of us. Matthew Fox said, “If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.” Every knot and age ring in a tree’s trunk tells a story of the personal history of the tree. The imperfections are what make each tree uniquely beautiful. Robin Williams wasn't crazy. He wasn't ever alone. He is now a fallen star. He was loved by many who never even met him. He will be missed.
Note: Will Jiang has authored 15 books, many about mental health, and his blog is located here: http://www.mentalhealthbooks.net