With the news of Robin Williams’ death circulating around social media platforms, I felt compelled to write an article about my views on his passing.
So many people on my newsfeed specified that he committed or died of suicide and to each and every one of them I want to write “he died of DEPRESSION”.
If an individual with lung cancer suffers a fatality from an infected collapsed lung, people say he or she died of cancer. At most, they specify that it is lung cancer, but hardly ever an infected collapsed lung. People who die from cancer almost never die from the cancer symptoms, such as stroke or seizure. So why have people been specifying that Robin Williams has died of suicide?
The stigma around mental illnesses such as depression leads people to believe that those suffering with depression choose to have it, or that they can “snap out of it” as there are people who are worse in the world. And yes, there are people who are financially less fortunate than Robin Williams. There are thousands of people who would love to have lead his life. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t or couldn’t suffer from depression.
Among many other things, depression clouds your judgement and prevents you from seeing life the way other people do so that sometimes, it seems as though death is the only answer. And if an individual does choose death, that does not make them a “coward”, as Fox News host Shepard Smith commented, nor does it make them “selfish”, as commented by Diff’rent Strokes star Todd Bridges. How is it cowardly to do something about the immense unhappiness you feel within your life on a day-to-day basis? A lot of people throw the word “selfish” around when someone has committed suicide, would they say the same if someone died of pneumonia as a result of cancer? Because I am pretty sure Robin Williams didn’t ask for depression the way cancer patients don’t ask for cancer.
People need to stop seeing depression as something that individuals choose to have and people need to stop seeing suicide as a selfish act. It is a fatal symptom of depression, something of which Robin Williams was a victim.
One of the most shocking comments surrounding his death that I have had the unfortunate displeasure of reading was from a Hamilton police officer, who tweeted “Dear Robin Williams: I truly wish you could have chosen to set a better example for those suffering with mental heath challenges.”
This is clearly a tweet from someone who doesn’t understand depression and the struggle that Robin lived with. How dark and down must Robin have felt during his final few moments in life that he felt death was his only answer? He was suffering and he didn’t believe he had a choice. Imaging waking up one morning and having one of those days that makes you want to eat all of the Ben & Jerry’s in the world or spend all of your money on retail therapy or simply go back to bed. We all have them once in a while but imagine what it would be like to have that sort of day every day for a week or a month or even a year. Imagine a life with no hope or happiness. How long would you be able to survive if you felt like that?
The police officer who tweeted the above statement has since issued apologies, as have Shepard Smith and Todd Bridges, but their words demonstrate the misunderstanding surrounding suicide and how it is a fatal symptom of depression as opposed to a choice.
Robin’s death proves that depression doesn’t discriminate: it affects rich and poor people, loud and quiet people, famous and non-famous people. Depression can affect anyone, from Robin Williams to that homeless person you pass on your walk to work every morning, so just remember to smile and be kind, for everyone is fighting their own battle.
Let’s not remember Robin for his death or the disease that took him from us. Let’s remember him as the actor and comedian who played such a large part in each of our lives through his countless film and TV appearances, as the man we knew and loved and as the man who will never be forgotten.