Although people suffer from depression everywhere and too many individuals decide to take their own lives as a result of their pain, mental illness will always get the spotlight when society loses a well-known figure to suicide.
While we probably don’t know him personally, we feel close to Robin Williams through his various movie and comedic roles. Whether you remember him best as Mork, the Genie, Mrs. Doutbfire, English teacher John Keating or Dr. Sean Maguire, Robin William’s warmth was always felt by his fans through the decades.
As the details of Robin William’s suicide surface, many have wondered how someone could bring so much joy to others around the world while quietly suffering from his own demons. Williams was believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder, an illness defined by its range of manic and depressive mood swings. It appears as though Williams had been battling an extended period of severe depression when he decided to take his own life.
What Robin Williams’ death most poignantly illustrates is that depression can overwhelm even successful, talented, wealthy and perceivably happy individuals. There is no common denominator or predictor of who can suffer depression, and everyone has a unique experience with the illness, where sometimes medications, treatments and coping skills are simply no match. For whatever reason, Williams felt that suicide was his only way to find relief from his suffering, and he is not alone in this feeling.
Can anything be learned from the terrible loss of this well-loved actor, as well the loss of so many whose names we don’t know and will never have the chance to meet?
For those who are suffering, perhaps it is the realization that, while your feelings of sadness are yours and are valid, you are not alone.
For those who know a loved one is suffering, we must learn to reach out, again and again and again, to show them how much they are loved.
Amongst the posts I’ve read over the past few days commemorating Robin Williams, nothing struck me as strongly as the following:
“If you feel isolated, I see you. If you wonder whether it all matters, I will help you find out. If you feel worthless, know that you are valued by me. If you feel the darkness closing in, there is always a little light. I will walk with you there.”