Our friend, our hero, the funniest man in the world. On August 11th, we broke down in shock at the news that Robin Williams had committed suicide. There were tweets and news updates; everyone knew in a matter of minutes, and everyone mourned. The world asked: how could a man who brought us so much joy not do the same for himself?
Suicide isn’t discussed frequently enough. It tends to hide out for a while until we’ve let our guard down; then it jumps back into dark action, and we remember. Suicide keeps coming back, and we keep asking: why is it here at all? A question of well-intentioned ignorance.
External and internal happiness are not mirrored, and Robin Williams is neither the first nor the last “happy person” to commit suicide. It isn’t nearly as simple as being happy or sad. Depression has layers of complexity, and comes in many different forms for many different reasons. Now, in Williams’s memory, we must take the opportunity to look at what causes tragedies like his.
We need to correct the notion that suicide is for attention or that it’s an easy choice. Suicide does not work alone; depression is its partner. Depression is hopelessness in its severest form, and in addition to being upset that people take their lives, we should be upset that people suffer to begin with.
We can’t keep saying that the victim is the perpetrator; depression isn’t a choice. It’s a disease that waits, dormant. Depression is elusive, hiding under the surface, only seen as the faltering embers of lit coals, flickering from underneath the cracked surface of its host. Nobody chooses to suffer.
“There’s a little voice that says: ‘jump,’” said Williams in 2006, eight years before his death. “It isn’t caused by anything. It’s there. It waits.”
Robin Williams didn’t take his life––his disease did. Rather than saying he killed himself, we should say he died of depression.
A man who made us relentlessly happy suffered just as anyone can. When the world pretends funny people are immune and dismisses their pain rather than lending support, it makes their struggle all the more difficult. John Belushi, an original member of SNL, died of depression (abcnews.com). Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Louis C.K. all suffer from depression (abcnews.com, rollingstone.com, bbc.com). It’s everywhere.
Robin Williams drained himself to bring happiness to others. He gave and gave without anybody giving back. Pretending he had no reason to suffer is a dishonor when, like any other person with depression, he had no way not to.
Our friend, our hero, the funniest man in the world. Robin Williams taught us so much while he was with us. We can learn something from every inch of his giant mark, even the etchings of his last moments. So let’s not remember him as just another victim of depression. Let’s remember him as the one who taught us to make a change in how we think about it.