Robin Williams is dead. A surprising number of his movies are “go to” movies for my family. How many times did my daughter & I watch Jumanji or Mrs. Doubtfire together? When my husband told me it felt like a hit in the stomach, the breath woooooshed out of my body for a second. I don’t understand the psychology behind this, but here’s what really sucks.
I am in no way, shape or form overly knowledgable about depression. I am lucky depression is not a part of my life. I have seen a (beginning of a) shift over the past decade or so, more and more people understanding that “depression” is not something a person can just shake off, or get over. Sometimes medication helps, sometimes meditation helps. Sometimes neither helps and a person may end up self-medicating, attempts that rarely end well whether that ending is on a coroner’s slab, hospital bed or rehab bed.
In the past depression has been viewed as a weakness. One doesn’t have to Google very far to find stories of people whose families rejected them for their depression, who thought it could be beaten out of them or some equally horrific “cure”. As a result the stigma attached to depression has been very difficult to shake. Hopefully (hopefully hopefully) some good will come of Robin Williams’ death and the mental health dialogue will get bigger and louder. At some point that dialogue will become a part of our national landscape and will cease to require discussion. Because people with depression and other mental health diseases will be treated with civility and kindness. When people with depression can obtain treatment easily and without stigma, depression will stop robbing us of people we love, people we admire and people who made a difference, even if we never met them.
Nonetheless, its still so hard to understand why someone so seemingly beloved …. and really, I haven’t seen anyone say that he turned down a request for a photo, or treated anyone badly except himself …. could be depressed. Three beautiful kids, an amazing number of friends. Of course his life wasn’t always easy; two divorces will certainly bring sorrow and grief. But why? Why was his universal kindness rewarded with sadness?
Why can’t love, this much love, bolster someone to get to the next day? The pain Robin Williams and other people with depression feel is beyond my scope. It does not compute. When I talk to a student with depression or anxiety, I often feel small and a little trite, like I’m passing off Hallmark platitudes as some form of assistance. I try to catch myself in those moments and replace my ignorance with kindness, genuineness and caring. Because that’s what I have to give and its true that you don’t know what the person next to you in the elevator is going through, so please, let’s treat everyone with a little more kindness today. And maybe imagine Robin Williams with that big Mork from Ork smile, looking over your shoulder. Let’s treat others today the way that you would like to be treated.
If you or someone you know suffers from depression or suicidal thoughts, please contact someone. Here is a list of helplines in the State of Florida: http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/florida-suicide-hotlines.html