If you have spent even a minute on social media yesterday and today you know that the world has lost a great talent, a man loved by many and someone who was more family than stranger even to those who never met him. Posts like the ones below have been the norm on my facebook feed and on twitter since the news broke yesterday.
But why does his death appear to affect so many more people so much more deeply than many other celebrity death? The reason will vary from person to person. For some it might be because they were unaware that he was suffering from depression (some sources also say he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at age 37) so someone who seemed so full of life and positivity committing suicide comes as a huge surprise and shock. Someone else might have a loved one who has committed suicide and this hits close to home for that reason. For yet again others, who did know about his struggle with depression and substance abuse, this might be a surprise because he just finished treatment at a rehab center and if someone with the means like Robin Williams cannot win against this struggle how could others with less access to treatment?
In the wake of Philip Seymore Hoffman's death in February of this year there was a lot of talk about what a waste it was that this talented man had died because of his addiction. There wasn't much talk about the WHY behind it. People would say that he was 'battling demons', that it was terrible that he had relapsed after being clean for 20+ years but there was not much talk about what was the cause of his addiction.
In part it was probably because he was a very private person and did not share much about himself past the public image he was presenting to the world. We will never know if he had a history of mental illness and mental illness does not automatically mean that someone will suffer from an addiction. However, in an attempt to self-medicate it does often correlate.
In contrast, Robin Williams was much more open about his struggle with depression and in one interview talked about having contemplated suicide in the past. We know that he sought out treatment and had actually just finished rehab to help with 'continued sobriety'. Because of that we are able to openly talk about the WHY behind his death. My hope is that we can use this to continue the conversation and help remove some of the stigma. Aside from the many posts about people sharing how this has affected them I have seen many posts from different sources (friends, news sites, celebrities, bloggers) sharing information on depression and how and where to seek help.
While my thoughts are with the family and friends of Robin Williams, my thoughts are also with those who are not in the spotlight and who are having a difficult time dealing with these events. There are resources out there, people who will help you and listen. Don't let the take away from this be 'Well, if even HE couldn't make it...'. Instead take this as a stepping stone to reach out and seek help. A stepping stone to continue the conversation on the need of more resources and research. A stepping stone to address issues of accessibility. A stepping stone to reach out to someone you feel might needs your help.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
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