Last night, I logged on to Facebook to respond to some messages before having dinner with my parents. There, at the top of my news feed, was the tragic headline:
My first thought? “Oh, this has to be another death hoax. They’ve killed him, Hulk Hogan, and almost all of One Direction in the past few months.” Then I saw that it was a link to CNN. CNN does not (typically) report hoaxes. Sadly, it was true. One of the greatest actors, comedians, and human beings of my lifetime was gone. I immediately passed the information along to my parents and my brother, and we just kind of sat there after reading the even bigger shock: his death was an apparent suicide.
I’ve worked in the mental health field for almost 3 years. During that 3 years, I’ve worn many hats. I’ve been a direct care staff, a skills training specialist, and am now a care facilitator. I’ve had training upon training about depression and suicide, and it amazes me how taboo the subject of mental health still is. Depression is not a joke. It is a real illness that can affect absolutely anyone. Robin Williams’ sudden passing is a sobering reminder of this. All the smiles, adoration, and fame in the world are not enough to suppress the demons within. Sometimes, death seems like the only escape. Suicide is also a hush-hush subject. Many people consider it to be a “cowardly” way to escape from problems. Truthfully? It takes a lot of courage and despair to make the decision that ending your life is the only way to extinguish the pain. There’s no undoing it—and that’s terrifying to think about. On the outside, Robin Williams was happiness in human form. On the inside, he battled the demons of depression and addiction. No one is immune to mental illness. Eerily, some of my favorite Robin Williams quotes fall right in line with views and treatment of mental illness.
As John Keating in Dead Poets Society:
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
As Hunter “Patch” Adams in Patch Adams:
“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.
As Jack Powell in Jack:
“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting.”
As Andrew Martin in Bicentennial Man:
“I try to make sense of things. Which is why, I guess, I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be.”
As Dr. Malcolm Sayer in Awakenings:
“The human spirit is more powerful than any drug and THAT is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. THESE are the things that matter.”
And, of course, as the lovable Genie in Aladdin, Williams said this:
“But oh, to be free…such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.”
And how true it is. You’re free now, Genie. May your joyful soul find in passing the peace you longed for in life.
If you or anyone you know is battling depression, mental illness, or thinking of suicide. Please get help. You’re not alone and there are people there to help you.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline