Robin Williams was one of the best comedians of all time. My first memories of him were on the sitcom, Mork & Mindy before he went on to star in some of the best movies in the business. During interviews and appearances, he seemed to be happy and chipper, always having a good one-liner on hand to brighten any mood.
I remember exactly where I was, and I was doing when news of his death first broke. It shocked me to my core as it did millions of fans around the globe. Because of his happy and upbeat demeanor, he was the last celebrity I thought would ever commit suicide, and it only goes to show that this manner of death often comes with no prior warning signs.
Unfortunately, outward appearances can be deceiving, and just because someone may look happy, confident, and outgoing doesn’t mean that they aren’t privately battling the evil demon of depression.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year, which equals to one person every 40 seconds. It is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15-29. However, the elderly have the highest suicide rates, more than 50% higher than young people (www.factretriever.com/suicide-facts)
One reason for the high suicide rate is that people frown upon mental illness. Because those unlucky enough to battle it fear others might judge them negatively and unfairly, they don’t admit that there’s a problem and refuse to get help.
Robin Williams was no different. I can tell you that despite his fame and fortune, he was afraid of being judged. Being a man, came with the fear that society would revoke his proverbial man-card, as men are conditioned from infancy to be the pillars of strength, which is why suicide rates are much higher with males. Being a comedian, he was afraid of being discredited and possibly losing his career.
Because there is so much stigma which surrounds depression and mental illness, these were very legitimate fears. I have found that people judge those with mental illness worse than they do thieves and murderers, and it’s a shame. What’s even more mind-boggling is that many of these finger-pointers also have some mental illness themselves or in their families. They only live in denial and point fingers to distract others from their own issues.
This past Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of Robin Williams’ death. If someone as talented, vibrant, wealthy, and famous as Robin Williams can be stricken with depression or any form of mental illness, then anyone can at any time.
People suffering do not need your criticism or your pity. They need your support!
It’s time to stop hiding, stop passing judgment and remove the stigma!