Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams, Suicide, And Depression

Like many people, I find Robin Williams' death sad and tragic.  I was shocked by both his death and the way he died.  What has shocked me more, however, is how insensitive people have been regarding his death or the choice he made to end his life.

I've seen people call him a coward or selfish, for example, and these words have hurt my heart.  Judging from all the kind things people who knew Williams personally have said about him, I doubt the last thing he would ever have wanted to do was hurt anybody he cared about, although leaving behind those that he loved has likely done just that.

I myself have never suffered from severe depression, although I have (in the past) wondered if life would be easier if I just were dead.  I have a few dear friends who do suffer from severe depression.  I have one friend who is so talented and terrific, but he deals with terrible depression.  I have fully expected to hear that he has taken his life, but he hangs on even though life can feel very miserable to him at times.  I know he has thought about suicide at times.

The sad fact is that there are some who suffer from depression that just can't seem to get out of its throes.  I've seen people insensitively question why a man as rich, successful, and funny as Robin Williams would take his own life when he seemingly had so much to live for.  But none of those things can fix true depression. 

Larry King, in referring to Williams' depression offered the following description of someone who suffers from depression:

"With depression, somebody could walk into a room and tell you that your rich uncle just died and left you a million dollars. Or that same person could walk in and tell you that your uncle died alone, face up in a gutter somewhere. The news would hit you the same either way."

Having never experienced the kind of depression my friends or Robin Williams have experienced, I cannot say I know how it feels.  I just know I can't judge the choices someone makes who suffers from depression.  To me, there is a little difference between cancer, a broken leg, a stroke, a burn, schizophrenia, or depression; they are all ailments that need treatment and if not treated, can lead to complications or death. 

I do not know how it feels to think the only option to release from pain and sadness is to take one's life, but I know there are people who do and sometimes they make that choice, and I can't judge them for that.

I remember many years ago a friend of mine committed suicide.  He was just a wonderful man, and I was shocked by his death by his own hand.  At his funeral I got the very clear impression that he was genuinely surprised by how much people cared about and loved him - and I guess that's the thing, when a person is in a frame of mind to kill themselves, they aren't seeing things as they might actually be; their perception has led them to believe that this is the only way out.

In the end, I'm glad God is the final judge.  I surely don't need to condemn Robin Williams.  He was, by many accounts, a very kind and open individual and he was a great actor and comedian.  I liked him very much and I hope he has found some of the peace that seemed to elude him in his mortal life.

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