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“We Are All Connected: Reflection on Robin Williams’ Suicide”

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This September 30, 2014 post by Pat Deegan put into words so much of what I wasn’t finding words for with regards to the death of Robin Williams.  Pat’s post offers hope, compassion and understanding, without focusing on so much of what we initially saw in the media in the aftermath of Robin’s death.  For those who don’t know, Pat Deegan is a Psychologist, and is also a Consumer in that she has a diagnosis of Schizophrenia.  Due to her somewhat unique position, she is able to speak to both professionals and other people with mental illnesses, and has created the Common Ground software to help people with mental illnesses communicate easier with their psychiatrists.  The post is well worth reading, and like I said it isn’t your typical Robin Williams article.

My personal thoughts on the death of Robin Williams

Robin Williams

Robin Williams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first saw a post yesterday that Robin Williams was dead … the post was on Facebook, and my first thought was “this has got to be a sick rumor type joke”  I did some investigating and found that NBC and CBS both had articles about it on their sites, so then that reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was aware that he struggled with depression, but like many I admired his skill as a comedian and actor while being oblivious to his life beyond the lights and cameras.  People in the mental health profession had suggested he could be someone I could look up to because of how he had managed to reach beyond his diagnosis.

On some level I am furious that he has died, but at the same time, knowing first hand what it is like to be wrestling with depression and feel like you will never truly feel joy or happiness again, I feel like on some level it was a desperate attempt on his part to find peace.  I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me also, but I feel like I need to turn my focus away from his final desperate act, if it was indeed a suicide.  Last I read suicide was what was suspected, but that they would be investigating further to be sure that assessment was accurate.   My focus at this point is on those who are left to pick up the pieces after his death.  The ones who will be asking many variations of the question “Why?” or “What could I have done to prevent this?”  they are questions his family and those who were closest to him who knew him not just for who he was on camera, but would also know who he was in private will likely wrestle with for a long time depending on what the conclusion is in the investigation into the death of Robin Williams.   While I am deeply saddened by this tragic loss, I do hope that something good will rise up from this loss.  What lessons can we learn from this?  Will this be a wake up call that the stigma surrounding mental illness can be fatal if left unchecked?  Will we realize that the people we put on pedestals who are actors and actresses or whatever glorified role they may have in society are still human and that it’s possible that we need to see them as humans and not as superstars?

So many questions but ultimately the answers we gain as we mull over the loss of Robin Williams will be as individual and unique as those asking them.  There is no single answer that is the end all answer to every question that will be asked.

My prayers go out to Robin’s family, friends, and for everyone else in the world who is suffering from a mental illness of any kind.  I also pray that as a society we wake up and realize that fearing those with mental health issues is not beneficial and that reaching out to them can truly mean the difference between life and death for some.  Hope can be the most powerful thing any of us can offer to someone else regardless of their illness or situation without hope we have nothing, but as long as we have hope, there is the possibility of a better tomorrow.

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