Robin Williams’ death is a tragedy. It breaks my heart every time I hear someone committing suicide, whether they be my friend or someone who I admired from afar. I remember watching Robin Williams on talk shows with my mom. I laughed so hard that I had trouble catching my breath.
And of course I’m not the only one. So many people have been posting about how much they loved this man – not only how funny he was, but how kind he was. He was someone who made everyone around him happy. This is so sad that it feels unfair. No – it is unfair.
News articles state that he had depression and substance abuse issues, though it is not yet known whether substances were involved in his suicide. I have previously heard that he had bipolar disorder.
But what specific mental illness he had is not the point of this post.
How did such a remarkable man, someone who was so admired by so many people, end up committing suicide? How could someone like that feel so depressed and so hopeless? He was loved by countless people all over the world. He had family who loved him. He had friends. How could he feel like everything was that hopeless, that he would end his life?
I cannot claim to know the reasons for Robin Williams’ death. I don’t know if anyone really knows right now, or if anyone ever will. And I cannot claim to know what could have been done to stop the suicide. I just don’t know enough information. I don’t know if anyone does.
But I aim to draw hope and a message from this tragic event, and stop events like it from happening.
I. THE NATURE OF SUICIDE – AND WAYS TO COMBAT IT
This suicide is counterintuitive and illogical. But that is the nature of suicide – when people are suicidal, they are not thinking clearly. They cannot see that there is hope; they can only see past failures and believe in the impending doom. The illness is what takes over. The illness strips the individual of reason. The illness skews their vision so they only see darkness, and no light.
But there are ways to combat it. There is always at least a glimmer of hope.
When in that dark place, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can reach out to family and friends. You can think about the people who you love, and those who depend on you. You don’t allow yourself to be isolated. There are many more ways.
However, it is equally as vital to PREVENT yourself from getting to that point. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to take action BEFORE it reaches that point. Ask for help. Reach out. Let yourself be helped. Build and use a support system of loved ones, activities, organizations, etc.
Treatment should be considered. If someone reaches such a low point, there is something deeply wrong; it is a crime not to seek treatment or help a loved one seek treatment. Please note that there are a variety of treatments available – medication, therapy, holistic, and more.
There are also Warmlines – “warm,” not “hot”lines – for people who are not yet in crisis, but need support. They offer peer support and referrals. You can reach one at 1-877-910-WARM. (I happen to work for one.) Don’t wait until things are so bad you can barely see any hope.
II. WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NOW
There is a direction we as a society need to move towards, spurred on by this terrible event.
What is imperative now is that society learns from what happened. Society cannot ignore how powerful mental illness is, and how life-threatening it is.
A paradigm shift must occur!
It is a fact that mental illnesses are as equally serious as physical illnesses. A FACT. I strongly argue that they are the same. To those that argue that they are “just feelings and thoughts” – how can you not take a “feeling” seriously, when it can spiral into something that compels someone to take their own life? How can one doubt the power of emotions when they reach a severity where they trump all reason?
Mental illness is a life threatening disorder. Just as someone can die from an aggressive cancer in the body, someone can commit suicide as a result of a progressive mental illness. In this sad case, it was Robin Williams.
There are too many people who don’t realize this, who are not receptive to cries for help and don’t understand that mental illness is not something you can just “get over.” Emotions, feelings, attitudes, behaviors, brain chemistry, physical effects, and more are all intertwined and should be taken equally seriously.
And this all starts with YOU.
The best way for society as a whole to reduce suicides is to realize the severity of mental illness. Break down the stigma towards mental illness which prevents people from seeking and getting help.
Support each other. Reach out for help if you need it. Accept people’s help when they offer it. Don’t ignore the problem or deny it — this goes to individuals suffering from mental illness as well as their loved ones.
This is something we all have to accomplish TOGETHER.
The world must realize that mental illness is real. If we accept its severity – if we believe that mental illness is a serious, biological disorder, and not a defect in character – I guarantee you more people will get the help they need. I guarantee you fewer suicides will happen. I guarantee you the world will be spared from so much pain.
Let there be one good thing from this sad event – let this be a way to pave a better future where mental illness is taken as seriously as a physical illness, so more people will receive the help they need.
Because we all need it.
And remember, I’m here for you, too.