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Robin Williams, Depression and Suicide

Photo credit: Google
With the recent death of the fantastic actor and comedian Robin Williams, we seriously need to rethink the way we see mental illness. Though not a sufferer of a mental illness myself, I know the impact having a physical illness can have on your mentality. And anyway, depression is more than just a mental illness. People in the grips of depression have physical symptoms. The pain in their mind is felt in their body. There is a physical cause of depression: a chemical imbalance in the brain. You can’t dismiss it, push it aside or “snap out of it”. If only people who haven’t got it, haven’t known someone affected by it and/or are ignorant about it could see it for what it really is. Robin Williams didn’t kill himself; depression killed him. His mind and body were overtaken by this misunderstood condition and, in the grips of it, all he could see was the way out. Why am I joining the millions of mourners writing their feelings in a blog? Because I want people to think about depression the way it should be. 

Photo Credit: Google

We throw the word depression about so flippantly nowadays, but those with true depression, the chemical imbalance in the brain, know how powerful that imbalance is. Considered a mental illness, it can have disastrous physical symptoms. I’ve heard about people who can’t get out of bed, are in extreme mental and physical pain and “give up” – I use inverted commas because it isn’t a choice. Their mind is so in the clutch of depression that they physically can’t get up, can’t eat, can’t drink; can’t breathe. Others take their own lives because they cannot see the light, the point or any other option. They don’t do it to be selfish, though it is seen as a selfish act, as most sufferers do it to spare their family the pain and effect of the depression on them, and whatever might have happened to cause it or as a result of the depression. And it’s not a decision taken lightly. 

Photo Credit: Google

Depression does not discriminate. Race, gender, religion, class, height, weight, hair colour…it affects us all. Even the most successful, outwardly happy or funny people can be affected; just look at Robin Williams. Considered one of the funniest and most successful actors and comedians, he suffered from depression and ultimately died after committing suicide as a result of it. I was sad and shocked when I heard, but what got to me even more than this was the poor reporting of depression, the explicit details given in reports and the response of the world in regards to the attitude towards depression and suicide. Why did we need to hear all the details? Especially when the suicide of a famous person and suicide coverage in the media often sparks more suicides and often, where explicit details are given, fuels copycat suicides. I know nowadays people want to know everything, which I am guilty of myself, but when I read about the effects this has on others I realised how crucial it is that those details aren’t released. Just read the Samaritans media briefing guide towards reporting on the suicide of Robin Williams (here) and their comment on the media coverage of his death (here), and the response from UK charity Mind (here). 

Photo Credit: Google

It is essential that we change attitudes towards depression, and support family members and friends we know suffer from it. Just make them know they matter and you love them. And don’t use the word depression so flippantly when, really, you’re just sad and down. We all feel that at times – heck I’ve had a lot to deal with and have been sad and down many, many times, and have struggled to see the point due to the downs and disappointments of my illnesses – but we need to reserve the word depression for those who suffer from this serious illness. We need to stop mental health being a taboo. We need to improve understanding of mental illnesses including depression. And we need to support each other. Reach out on a regular basis, and practise kindness. It doesn’t take much – a quick visit, a phone call, a text, a hug – just to make them know they have people who love them and want to support them. Let them talk honestly if they reach out to you, and don’t let your relationship with them lapse, as loneliness fuels depression and suicide. 

Photo Credit: Google

If you suffer from depression, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. You matter, you just might not be able to see it right now. If you are struggling, call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or Mind on 0300 123 3393.

Photo Credit: Google
Robin Williams always has, and will be, a favourite actor of mine and I will miss his performances. My particular favourites are Mrs Doubtfire and Patch Adams, though I’ve loved him in many including Hook, Flubber, Aladdin and others. RIP Robin.
Photo Credit: Google

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  1. although there may be several advancements for the way of treating mental Conditions on the past 50 years, there's still an certain stigma surrounding ones views with mental illness. Many people still mistakenly believe The idea anyone using a mental illness is usually simply lazy or even they will location blame towards the parents whether or not ones patient can be a child.Kevin Perelman

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