The Gift Of Robin Willams

    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

3 thoughts on “The Gift Of Robin Willams

  1. Jen – I agree with all your major points but it is a bit of a contradiction to agree with AFSP’s main point that one of their standards is that it does not serve anyone well to portray suicide as an attractive choice and then suggest that the standards need to be changed. The AFSP’s standards include open and honest discussion about suicide so I’m not sure what you would want change about their standards.
    I think the more critical point that you are making is that society, in general, tends to shy away from these uncomfortable subjects, such as death, addiction and interpersonal violence. Yes, it is frightening that Robin Williams’ suicide forces us to face that fame and fortune provide no safety net for people dealing with bipolar disorder (or any other mental diagnosis) or addiction issues. Perhaps even more concerning is that Robin Williams was unusually open in discussing his demons with the public and had sought professional help on more than one occasion. He had described suicide as a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
    Bi-polar disorder is notoriously hard to live with. Both ends of the spectrum are destructive but the maniac stages feel so much more powerful and alive. The contrast makes the depression even darker to experience. The meds flatten out the affect on both ends – a somewhat unsatisfactory way to live your life.
    He was a celebrity so lots of people had expectations of who he is and what he is like – living up to other peoples idea of who you are can be exhausting. Not knowing if people care about you as a person or for what you can provide them is isolating. Perhaps the harshest reality is that, under the best of circumstances (supportive caring environment, open discussion, therapy and rehab), some people reach a point where the internal pain is so unsolvable to them that they see no other way to stop feeling that than to kill themselves.
    This is not to say that we should not seek to be as kind, as caring, as tuned in to other people as we are capable of being – but we should be doing that anyway. Sometimes all the concern and resources just is not enough to change the choices others make.

    • True McSane. I suppose it’s too easy for me to think that people in the spotlight can somehow magically rise above trials and tribulations. If Robins death serves as catalyst and raises awareness, this is good

      • What I feel needs to be changed is not the message so much as their use of the words ” It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide.” How the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention discusses suicide is not how the general public talks about it.

        Recently I was asked to write an article for End Violence Against Women’s Sexual Assault Report about my experience of rape and the 20+ years my case was cold before getting solved. I was given a list of words and phrases I had to use in place of my voice because these words are generally accepted as the standards for discussing sexual assaults and their investigations by law officials, investigators, the courts and health providers. Although these changes did not alter the meaning of my words, it did take parts of the article out of my voice and into theirs.

        In trying to make sense of the death Robin William, recognition and open discussion, by the general public, of the illness can not and will not follow standards set by health officials. It is impossible for us to discuss suicide following their standards.

        The image and the sentiment ‘Genie, you’re free’ is, I believe, the voice of a loving public who is beginning to recognize the depths of despair Williams must have been experiencing and although we do not approve of his choice, we wish him peace in his passing. Nor do I believe his suicide will spark “a formula for potential contagion” as remarked by Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

        Much like sexual assault was thrust into the spotlight with the Penn State rapes and a few other sexual assault cases, people are talking and that can have a very positive effect on others who suffer Bi-polar disorder, depression, manic-depressive disorder etc, etc, etc

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