Why Robin Williams’s Depression and Suicide Matter

robin williamsYesterday, the world was shocked to learn that the great and lovable actor and comedian Robin Williams passed away.

What was personally shocking and heartbreaking for me was that, as of now, preliminary investigations indicate that he died of suicide by asphyxia. That he had hanged himself. And through the many, many articles and tributes online, I learned that he was battling severe depression for many years.

Suddenly, the dots connected. Behind the joy and laughter he exuded and elicited, that personal darkness of depression was there. Despite getting professional help, despite having loving family and friends around him, Robin Williams wasn’t able to keep up the fight.

Indeed, depression doesn’t discriminate. Contrary to popular belief and glamorized notions, depression is not only for the loner, the poor, the unsuccessful. It is not about being sad after a heartbreak, a material or financial loss, or a dream unfulfilled. It is a mental illness that, if kept in the dark and untreated, can be overwhelmingly out of control.

Thousands, perhaps more, people all over the world are mourning the loss of Robin Williams. We are all paying tribute to his legacy by remembering his best works, our favorite lines, our childhood memories of how he made us laugh. But there is another way to honor Robin Williams. We can talk about depression and suicide. We can make more of an effort to understand that depression is, more often than not, hidden from plain sight. We can refrain from judging the collateral damage of suicide, because each person’s journey into depression and/or suicide is different. We can try to be kinder to one another. We can shout out to the world or gently whisper to our friend that throughout the long and dark tunnel, with help all along the way, there is that light. There is that hope.

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