When I woke up this morning and saw a notification from my Guardian app, I didn’t want to finish reading the headline:
‘Robin Williams found dead in California home’.
Before I even read the article, I had an inkling that his death was the result of suicide, perhaps caused by the mental health problems he’d very openly talked about in the past. I was right.
Williams’ death was an instant reminder of the death my musical hero Kurt Cobain suffered too. A suicide, caused by drug addiction and depression. A pang of pain shot through me.
Again, another big name leaves the world, and again, all we can do is remember. Today, Robin Williams’ death has made me remember my childhood, one where I watched Flubber on TV and laughed at a blob of green goo which had a life of its own. I suddenly remembered giggling when Williams played the older version of Jack in Jack, farting in a can with his little friends in a tree-house. Although a grown man, Williams appealed to all – I’m sure even straight-faced adults watching his stand-up material or movies found themselves managing a smile, if not outright laughter. For who can ever forget the genius of Mrs Doubtfire?
Williams was funny, and so infectious. He didn’t even have to try – his face had a loveable expression, and he filled each of his characters with his own life and soul – you knew you were watching Robin Williams, not just an actor playing a character. Very few Hollywood actors can do what he did. Very few can capture such a range of genres. Very few can impact fans the way he has done.
His death has raised into mainstream media and social media more questions about perceptions of mental health sufferers. Are they being helped enough? Are people recognising the seriousness of illnesses like depression? Why do we let the issues surface and then sink just as quickly? The internet is bursting with questions, tweets and statuses encouraging people to THINK.
Depression is a serious mental illness, and one that should not be taken lightly. The next time you speak to a friend who is feeling low, make sure you take the time to find out if he/she is okay… and I mean really okay. Do not let your own judgements osbcure what could be happening behind the scenes. Sometimes, all it takes is a ‘how are you?’ to realise someone is suffering.
What we can take from Williams’ death is a message that depression is prevalent and still very, very real, and that we cannot ignore and brush it under the carpet. If you are a friend to someone, be a friend in the best way you can – take the time to ask them how they are, and offer them support they may be afraid to get elsewhere. One of the common feelings associated with depression is feeling alone – give somebody close to you hope that you care and that they may feel alone, but in reality, aren’t. Also, don’t be the kind of person who cannot sympathise. A person feeling at their lowest needs affection and care. Think about how you’d feel if you experienced what they felt.
It has been very hard to discuss anything but Robin Williams today. The death of such a megastar and influential persona sure leaves you thinking about what truly matters in life. Granted, many sufferers commit suicide due to mental health problems and their death doesn’t get similar coverage, but this isn’t to say it means any less. This is a real problem, and if we just take the time to make time, we could help someone in need.
If I have learned anything from the death of Williams, it has been that we must take better care of each other. I’d hate to know someone I called a friend was having the most horrific time of their life, and that I wasn’t around to help them through it. Could you live with yourself?
Rest in peace Robin Williams, one of the funniest and most influential people in comedy and cinema. I’ll be showing my children your movies, and I know even then you’ll make them laugh as much as I did!