Robin Williams was one of those zany comedians and Oscar winning actors that I grew up watching on television (Mork & Mindy) as a teenager and found him to be quite funny and entertaining. As I got older, my humor tastes grew so my repertoire of comedians has changed but Robin Williams is someone that I always liked and enjoyed his acting performances in movies like Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, and World’s Greatest Dad. So when I learned that he passed and possibly of suicide, of course, like other fans of his, I was taken aback. Obviously, death is imminent for us all but when someone’s life is publicly visible, you feel like you know them. Or do you?
The death of a notable person like Robin Williams’ creates conversations about mental health, public health, depression and suicide. People may open up more about personal pain and their battle with depression. Whenever I read or learn of someone who committed suicide and suffered from depression, it makes me sad and I automatically think of my mom, Marcia. She committed suicide when I was 15 years old but the depth of her actions did not impact me until I was in my mid-20s. I always thought if someone had taken her concerns seriously, a stranger said an encouraging word, or something, that maybe she would be alive today and I could buy her gifts for Mother’s Day and tell her how much I love her. However, because of the stigma associated with depression and suicide, my family didn’t talk about it or her much, not even to this day. And that’s the problem with depression.
Many people really don’t think it’s a disease or don’t like that it is associated with mental health. Licensed and national board certified counselor Ms. Bahiyya Amh-Shere of YOUniversal Change, Inc. says depression is real and “that It is easier to associate a person with being weak-minded or can’t handle pressure than to acknowledge that there may be a real medical problem, like heart disease. We have to change our mindset about mental illness and its role in society today.” Personally, I’ve known enough people in my adult life who I have witnessed struggling with depression, as well as a few people who have committed suicide. And what I saw was people who were in pain and deep turmoil that they felt they had to hide from others in fear of judgment so that they could be accepted. And let me tell you, it never gets easy to ever understand the how or why of suicide as a result of depression. It just hurts to know that someone was hurting that bad to make that kind of a permanent life decision.
I remember at a place of employment where a senior vice president was found hung in her office over the weekend. Employees were shocked and couldn’t believe it. She seemed so happy and had it all together. But what we saw was her public mask; the one she wore to keep from being judged. The real person, was in some type of unbearable emotional pain, and she could not see what everyone else saw in her. She only felt her pain. As a journalism college student, i interviewed a prominent campus administrator for a school assignment, only to find out a week later that he was hospitalized for a self-administered gunshot wound. My instructor came to me and told me she understood if I wanted to re-do the assignment on someone else. I didn’t. He had some positive information he shared about getting a college education and that’s the person that I wanted people to know.
But this is what I believe: No one would consciously take their life knowing they are leaving behind people who love them and care for them. No one would just give up a bright and promising future or pretend to have feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Sometimes it’s not that simple as mind or matter, just pray it away. It really is a medical problem resulting from a chemical imbalance that should be properly diagnosed by a doctor. It IS something that is treatable with the right diagnosis and medicine. There are even herbal and natural medicines that might work. The key is taking it seriously when a person shows symptoms of depression. You never know when a person is experiencing their own private hell and may ultimately make a deadly decision. While it’s their decision, it’s one that is preventable.
If there is someone you love that you know or think may be struggling, please show compassion and offer encouragement when suggesting that they seek medical help. Even offer to go with them. To learn more about the signs of depression, visit http://www.webmd.com/depression/.
In closing, stay eternally blessed and be grateful for your life and good health. Life is worth living no matter how bad it seems or feels; it’s a temporary moment in time that will pass. Make sure you sincerely share this message today, and please call or go hug a loved one and let them know you love them and that their life DOES matter.