Today I was going to give you a typically vacuous account of my spending spree yesterday for my birthday celebrations, befitting of the usual level of content on my blog; but somehow it seemed inappropriate with the news of the death of Robin Williams.
Because although shopping remains ever close to my heart, increasing awareness about depression is even closer, and each time I’ve spotted a photo or tribute to Robin Williams today, it has made me feel inconsolably sad.
Suicide is a messy business that no-one really wants to deal with. But the loved ones of its victims are forced to, and society should be accountable too.
Tragic cases, such as this high-profile one, and the many more that eventuate each day, touch me personally because of the depression that runs in my own family and the fear I experience with a young adult who often teeters precariously on the edge of life. I can only pray that my child never reaches the same level of desperation that Robin Williams reached, but I am also aware that it’s part of the beast.
But the more people understand depression, the greater the chance of someone being there for my child, should he ever reach that dire moment of of need.
I didn’t know Robin Williams but I do know that there are few entertainers that have managed to strike a chord across generations and cultures as successfully as he did. He demonstrated a passion, a loveable silliness and an infectious vivaciousness for life that drew people in to empathise with him. He had the ability to make his audience laugh and cry at the same time, such was the immeasurable talent and authenticity he displayed as a performer.
Grown men mounted tables yesterday, in honour of his performance as the English teacher, John Keating, in Dead Poets Society – I get goose bumps when I think about that.
People die every day from clinical depression, which often culminates in suicide. A few months back, someone jumped off the Harbour Bridge at the end of our street and I still feel sad and guilty whenever I walk that part of the street. That someone should feel so overwhelmingly desperate they would choose to end their life in such a public manner, with so little dignity and in such a brutal way, still horrifies me.
Suicides like this are often covered up. Apparently we don’t need to know about those people who reject our society, and anyway, suicide is a messy business that makes us feel uncomfortable. Suicide emanates from inner negativity and the fear is that it will provoke a rise in copycat suicides from those of a similarly fragile mental state of mind.
But if we don’t educate people about those far-reaching extremes of depression, how can we prevent it or help those who are suffering before it’s too late?
The reality of death is that it is the end of our journey. It is the day the candle is blown out. And as harsh as it sounds, the dead are soon forgotten (except by family and friends) unless you have the public status of Robin Williams, who will live a little longer via social media and the legacy of film.
What was so shocking about Robin’s sudden death is that he appeared content to the outside world – although his inner circle would certainly have been all too aware of his demons. Depression is a common condition in comedians – some believe that depression has a role in feeding genius because of the mood swings it exacerbates. That’s the silent danger of the condition; unlike other illnesses with more visible physical symptoms to alert close ones to those at risk.
Robin Williams was the last person that you would think was ill.
From the outpourings of public grief since news of his death broke, Robin left an enormous legacy for what he gave to the entertainment industry and to his relationships with friends and family. His final legacy is to those who are currently fighting depression and who may still have time for support as a result of the awareness his death has raised.
He came across as a genuine man with a genuine heart and suffered from a very genuine and common condition that took him away from us all too soon.
Let’s hope that Robin’s sad, high-profile death can help prevent the deaths of others who still struggle, isolated and privately like he did, due to the stigma that surrounds this terrible illness.