In my lifetime I have witnessed the passing of many public figures but none so sad and frightening as the recent suicide of Robin Williams.
Sad because we all lost a gem. He made us laugh and cry wanting the performance or movie we were watching to never end. I know I always anticipated his next roll and tried to catch every TV appearance. I envied his carefree and spontaneous manner. I admired his way of making us laugh at ourselves.
Robin’s death is frightening because it reminds me that we are all vulnerable. Fame and fortune are not enough to isolate us from mental health problems like depression and substance abuse. They may, in fact, make things worse for some. Each of us has burdens but do we have to suffer alone?
He was loved by millions and he was alone. I cannot imagine how horrible that isolation must have been for him. Was there no one he could reach out too? Did he feel he had tried everything and there was no help left? His despair led him to take his own life to end his pain and all of us are desperate to make sense of it all.
I read something on Facebook this morning that prompted me to write this entry. It references a Tweet about a movie Robin did the voice-over for. I didn’t see the movie>>>
“Suicide contagion and social media: The dangers of sharing ‘Genie, you’re free’
More than 270,000 people have shared the tweet, which means that, per the analytics site Topsy, as many as 69 million people have seen it.
The problem? It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide.If it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it,” said Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide should never be presented as an option. That’s a formula for potential contagion.” <<<
I agree that suicide should not be an option. But, sadly we are reminded that too often it is. Maybe the “standards for talking about suicide” should be revisited.
As a reformed alcoholic with 24 years sober, I know how difficult the discussion of addiction is. I know too the shame and humiliation felt by those who suffer. Choosing not to drink is a daily decision. But facing and slaying the demons that guided me to the path of drinking in the first place is what keeps me balanced and prevents me from slipping off of the very thin tightrope. Sobriety really is ‘One Day at a Time’
Perhaps the most generous gift Robin Williams has given us is the opportunity for the discussion, recognition and treatment of mental illness, depression and addiction without social recriminations. Creating an environment where those who suffer begin to speak openly and freely can help us recognize red flags and find a way to help. Open discussion may offer hope to some and lead to fewer suicides.
When a man who was loved by millions the world wide feels so alone and desperate- isolated in his own home that his only solution was to take his own life, we have to wake up. He is free of his pain and we can learn from it.
Be at peace Robin Williams
National Suicide Prevention Life line: 1-800-273-8255