At this point, Robin Williams’ death is in no way news to any of you folks, of that I am sure. So there is no need to go into any details about it here really. I just want to take a moment to express how badly that we as a nation, as a planet, need to seriously address mental illness issues. For far too long they have been placed on the back burner, left to simmer but never consumed.
I, myself, have struggled with depression throughout my adult life. I don’t think I’ve ever been truly suicidal, but many who suffer depression are, and sadly, they follow through. Such was the case with Williams, who battled depression for many years, oftentimes self-medicating with alcohol and other substances.
If anything good can come from Robin Williams’ tragic death, it would be for people to start realizing how prevalent mental illness and depression runs rampant in our society. It needs to be brought out further into the spotlight after this. People need to be educated and made aware of the signs.
As I type this, just a few hours after his death, there are already sensationalist news articles floating around about Williams’ “troubled life,” yet nothing on the seriousness of depression itself. Which doesn’t surprise me in the least, but it certainly still annoys me.
I was over at reddit a couple of hours ago and folks were sharing some of their favorite movies, TV moments and other memories of Williams. All of his obvious classics like Good Morning Vietnam, Mork & Mindy, The Birdcage, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, etc. were mentioned. Hell, folks were even reminiscing over Bicentennial Man. The one that I didn’t see mentioned and I subsequently brought up was The Fisher King.
In The Fisher King, Williams plays a man who lost his wife in a tragic shooting and then falls into the depths of severe psychosis — having delusions of a terrifying red knight after him and suffering from a general disconnect with reality. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying much more, but in my opinion, it is his best movie.
I may be a bit biased in that statement because it was a classic from my childhood. I first watched it as a kid of about 12-years-old or so, and even though I didn’t yet grasp what it was really about, I still wore out that goddamn VHS tape in no time. Some may not deem it as award-worthy as his role in Good Will Hunting — although, something I just learned today is that he was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for The Fisher King — a damn fine performance.
In fact, everyone in the film gave a spectacular performance. Mercedes Ruehl won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and Jeff Bridges’ role as the scummy radio shock-jock-gone-good was damn-near perfect as well, earning him a Golden Globe nomination. It’s definitely a must-see for those who have yet to watch it.
Williams’ passing marks the first time in my life that I have truly felt sad about a celebrity dying, and I’m honestly not sure why. I am not even a huge fan of all his work, yet I still feel worse than I did when Philip Seymour Hoffman died — who is easily one of my favorite actors of all-time. Maybe it’s the fact that he seemed like such a genuine person — someone who loved to make people happy even if he wasn’t. Especially if he wasn’t. Speaking from experience, a lot of people who love to entertain others, whether it be through music, comedy, acting, whatever, deal with severe depression and anxiety issues.
I’m no shrink, obviously, but I would have to say it has to do with the fact that making other people happy keeps you going when you’re really down. Making others laugh and smile makes you feel a bit more alive and human, if only for a few minutes. At least it does for me. Even though it is fleeting, that brief respite is worth so much to someone who is chronically depressed. Laughter, in this case, was quite literally his medicine.
While I was over at reddit checking out a few of the many posts about Williams’ death, I became overwhelmed by some of the stories people were telling. People who knew him, people who just casually met him in an airport or restaurant one day, and people who only ever knew him on screen — they all had something positive to share with the world about Williams. The common theme among all of these comments was that he was just simply an amazing man — a person that changed countless lives for the better and brought joy and happiness to millions of people.
I have been a redditor for quite some time at this point, and I have never seen the community act this devastated over the death of a celebrity. It was really quite touching and I’d be a liar if I said some of those stories didn’t get me choked up a bit.
So what happened here? How did one of the world’s most beloved personalities get to a point of such desperation that the only way to ease the pain of life was to end it — to make it go away in order for it to stop terrorizing him?
Robin Williams had everything at his disposal. As a child, he grew up in a very well-to-do family and basically wanted nothing. Through his talents, Williams achieved monumental success on his own terms and was living the dream so many others would give almost anything to experience.
The man was already a living legend and more importantly, he was wealthy — giving him unlimited access to the best treatment facilities in the world. He had millions of adoring fans and plenty of close friends and family who loved him deeply. In the end, none of that even mattered. He died at the hands of his own psyche, just the same as thousands of other people do each year. The middle-aged father who lost his job and can no longer provide for his family. The once promising artist or musician-turned-junkie. The single mother of two who just can’t take reality anymore. The high school football star who now has nothing but memories, child support payments and a bad back. War veterans with PTSD. Bullied teenagers who don’t even yet know the value of life.
Then you have someone who seemingly has everything going for them and shouldn’t have a care in the world: Robin Williams.
All of these types of people took their own life this year. And there are many more to come if we don’t do something to change this. The average suicide rate in America alone is close to 40k per year. Just think about that for a second…seriously.
This only proves how mental illness knows no bounds. It does not discriminate.
I’ll end this with how I started it: mental illness needs to be better addressed, diagnosed, treated and talked about. Folks who don’t suffer from depression need to be better educated on the subject — that is essentially the bottom line.
I can’t even tell you how many times people have said something akin to “just be happy’ to me. It’s not that they’re being mean-spirited, but they say things like that because they simply just don’t understand what it is truly like. You can’t just shake away depression, you can’t walk it off like after getting popped in the pelvis by a puck. The pain and the suffering is real, it drains you both mentally and physically — hopefully this tragedy will get the ball rolling for what desperately needs to be a worldwide, open and candid discussion.
This is a great video by Sky Williams that he just released a few hours ago. In it, Sky almost perfectly describes what it’s like for someone who suffers from depression and definitely brings my point home.
Here is the trailer for the 1991 classic, The Fisher King.
And by the way, The Fisher King is also streaming on Netflix right now in case any of you guys are interested.
I hope you have finally found peace, my friend. You will be missed immensely.
All images: Sony Movie Channel
Video source: Sky Williams
Video via: reddit
Trailer via: kindeer
Gif via: reddit