Recently, an icon of both television and film passed away. If you haven’t heard about it, I’m talking about Robin Williams. We know him as a comedian, the voice of Genie from Aladdin, and the ever-so-charming Mrs. Doubtfire.
The cause of death? Suicide.
And it is for this reason that I make this post. There have been dozens of news reports, countless of interview re-runs, but never is the focus on the illness that caused Robin Williams’ demise. Depression.
I am sick of people blaming him, calling him selfish or even saying that he had no reason to take his own life. I’m sorry, but are you him? What he battled with is just as tangible as cancer and HIV. The battle is just as drawn out. Maybe you couldn’t see it on the surface, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Do you have feelings? Well, are you sure? I don’t see them. Don’t feelings only exist when there is laughter or tears? If you think I’m being utterly ridiculous for even saying something like this, well, you should understand that is how people treat mental illness. They don’t believe in it because there is no proof. By the time something tangible appears, it may be in the later stages already.
The reason why I am so passionate about this is because I saw a segment on Robin Williams yesterday. It casually mentioned that the cause of death was depression, but then tried to shift the focus to his finances. As if the only reason fathomable for him to end his life is because of his cash flow.
Depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. It doesn’t care if you were or are the happiest person in the world. It can strike, it’s omnipresent, and very potent. Depression takes prisoners and feels no guilt. Imagine how long Robin Williams must have battled with the illness before finally reaching his breaking point.
Some see the action as selfish. Taking your own life, wow, how selfish. But maybe after all those years of living through the torture for others, it’s time to be selfish. Or even more so, maybe the person could feel as if his or her act is actually selfless.
If you’ve never had a bout of depression before, let me tell you, it is not pretty. You don’t see the positive in anything. You don’t think that you can get out of it. But worst of all, you feel alone. And if you don’t feel alone, you feel like you’re dragging everyone down with you. You’re moody and you’re reclusive, friends start getting annoyed at you for skipping out on plans. You barely feel like a person, just a shell. You try to sleep to escape reality, or you engage in other risky and self-endangering behavior.
What kind of life is that to lead?
I am sorry that Robin Williams went the way he did. I’m actually devastated. But his death opens this window for a very important discussion, one about mental health and mental illness. Unfortunately, that’s not what our focus is on, we’re focusing on what other reasons could have caused this event. What we as a society is saying is that depression is not enough of a reason. But it is.
One symptom of depression, one very well known one: thoughts of suicide, or harming yourself or others.
If that’s the thing most associated with depression, than can you explain to me why it’s still not enough of a reason? When someone says that he or she is depressed, isn’t our first reaction to worry?
Instead of looking for loopholes or excuses, can we please talk about the real problem? How little we understand about mental illness, and how little we do to expose the dirt on such prevalent diseases. Millions of people suffer from mental illness, hundreds of thousands die.
If those numbers aren’t tangible to that numerical part of you, then I don’t know what else to say. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not real.
And for those who say that it was a choice… Yes, to a rational and reasonable person in the right state of mind, yes it may seem so. But to someone so far gone, overtaken by an illness like depression… it may not seem so.
Sometimes a choice isn’t really a choice. Depression is irrational and unreasonable. You can’t explain it, you can only feel it. And when it gets to you, you can’t even figure out up from down, so how can you understand what’s real and what’s your distorted point of view? And what if your distorted view is your reality?
Let’s talk about depression. Feel free to leave me comments.
This is an important topic to me. It’s near and dear to my heart, and I want for others to understand that Robin Williams lived a wonderful life and did wonderful things. His name, and any others who end their own lives because of mental illness, should not be shamed or tarnished over something they could not control.