I was deeply saddened and disturbed by the loss of Robin Williams. It’s going to take a while to adapt to it. I’ve known for years that he suffered from addiction and depression of some kind but I never expected it would take this turn.
I just read an article (1) talking about how there’s always a spike in suicides after a high-profile celebrity suicide, and this is about as high profile as it gets. Another article commented about how this is the first high-profile suicide in the era of social media (2) so the flow of information has been quite different than in the one-directional, news source to audience past. I’m encouraged that the content of the commentary has almost universally been one of understanding that depression is an illness and that suicide is sometimes a symptom of it. This is in stark contrast to the more judgmental tone that there has been in the past, that it is a sign of weakness, or a character flaw or even, by those who are religiously inclined, a result of sin, which, in my opinion, is the most insidious, if not downright evil, explanation.
I’ve often wished that there was a pill I could give someone that would cause them to experience depression temporarily. I’m convinced that just 5 minutes would be enough for the average person to understand how debilitating and dangerous this illness is. The statistics are staggering. Even I was stunned when I read this from the World Health Organization recently: ‘Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.’ (3) People just don’t realize how common, under-diagnosed and damaging to people’s lives and to society this is. And this is tragic considering that for many people it is easily treated, especially if recognized early.
But, other than experiencing it somehow first-hand, there are other ways to communicate it that seem to help people to understand and encourage compassionate support to those who are ill. This devastating loss provides just one more reason for me to try.