So it begins… A famous person takes his life. Cue the spotlight. Dialogue begins. Has this death added something new to the discussion? Will we take this as an opportunity to review health-care policy for those suffering the very real illness called depression? Or will the conversation drag down, into the great abyss of misunderstanding?
It’s almost too close to home. I’m unable to read all the Facebook posts and memorials. It hurts. Why should it bother me on such a level?
I didn’t know Robin Williams much beyond some of his dramatic roles and his hilarious turn as the animated blue guy. I didn’t know him as a person or father or husband. But now, in his death, we can all see him for what he was: human.
The rich and famous are put on such a pedestal in the US and around the world. Comedians perhaps are given a special place in our hearts because they open up about their home lives and personal experience in their stand up. We feel close to them because they open up and turn the every day into something fun and exciting. For many, this suicide is a harsh reminder that depression is universal. Even funny, successful, and yes — famous people that we admire, can have a secret pain that is too much to bear.
People either understand what that feels like or they don’t. People who have battled depression can hopefully remember that pain and feel compassion for a funny man who was obviously in a desperate state to make such a decision. Those who have not experienced depression might mention the S word. Selfish. Those of us still down in the trenches are left to read the postmortem character assassination and feel even weaker knowing that is what people will think of us if we talk openly about being suicidal. I DO understand why people say suicide is selfish but I can NOT agree. The mind is powerful and capable of inflicting agony. The S word adds nothing positive to this discussion except an even stronger stigma that will silence people who need help.
So what can I, as someone who grapples with the will to live quite often, add in the wake of Robin Williams’ momentous decision? Empathy.
Goodbye, Mr. Williams. I’m sorry you were in so much pain. You were not alone.