Photo Credit Creative Commons Flickr
When the news aired of Robin Williams apparent suicide this afternoon I clasped both hands to my cheeks. He warmed so many people's hearts. His movies carrying with them the most poignant messages:
Mrs Doubtfire was about fighting for your family.
Patch Adams about giving people dignity in death and not turning away those who couldn't pay for care and opening others eyes to your vision.
Aladdin was about seeing other's wishes come true.
Good Will Hunting - getting over ourselves and seeing the bigger picture
I could go on about 12 or 20 more movies. Robin had a way of connecting with a character and bringing that character fully to life.
He could bring a fictional character to life, yet in his own life he was having some kind of trouble figuring out how to fully enjoy and be at peace.
Any time a celebrity's death is linked to suicide and those common threads of addiction and depression are brought up, I am again a grieving child, desperate to understand the reasons my own father took his life. This time maybe a little more because it appears to be from asphyxia, and one report more clearly stated he hanged himself. My uncle hung himself when I was just 5 years old. He was my favorite of all my uncles. I didn't yet quite understand death, except that it brought about great sadness.... and that sadness burdened by the question of "why" seemed to make it a greater pain to overcome. I'll never understand someone feeling so numb or so alone that this is the only way they can escape their pain.... but I had a fear that I would when I went through postpartum depression. It freaked me the fuck out.
Often it is those who have incredible wit, incredible talent and such expansive minds that have the deepest depths of sorrow or loneliness to battle. I still don't know how we can tell that someone is making their last call for help indirectly. How we are supposed to recognize the signs that this one conversation is more than a mere conversation, but a cry for help or a long goodbye. If we are not trained professionals, how can we offer help in a way that is welcomed with gratitude, that is not making one feel shame for their suffering or putting a limelight on the debilitating disease. I don't have the answers to any of these. I find that I've been spared the burden of having someone close to me suffer from this because I still feel guilt for not recognizing my father's days were limited, that he had been broken to a point he saw no repair.
I'm finding it a bit ironic that his last role was in The Crazy Ones.... that term and the negative connotation that goes with it.
When will we have a better handle on addiction and depression? I wonder if Robin's death can help create more awareness for this.... especially with National Suicide Prevention Week coming up in September. There have been posts about his wife asking that we focus on his life and good works rather than his death.... for me, it is not only impossible, but irresponsible. It is one more way to say suicide needs to be swept under the run or there is something shameful in the depression one suffers that we need to dim the lights on it and instead only focus on the bright Hollywood lights. I just can't do that. Robin Williams would not want someone else to suffer the kind of anguish that brought him to his final breaths.... I have to believe that he'd be okay with being the poster boy for creating awareness around suicide prevention.
You made us laugh, Robin. You were loved and admired. You inspired. And you will be remembered.
Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons
Resources you can use:
It's Up to Us
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Active Minds uses the hashtag #StigmaFighter to do exactly that, fight the stigma of mental illness