Like many of you, when I first heard the news about Robin Williams’ death I felt a great sense of disbelief. As an entertainer, he transcended generations and genres to delight and inspire millions of people. He devoted his life to bringing joy and laughter to others, so it’s no surprise that he touched so many people so profoundly.
Like so many, I was surprised at how much of an effect his loss had on me. I remember watching Robin with my children. He was a welcome and familiar face whose almost child-like enthusiasm connected with all of us. He brought compassion and humanity to his dramatic roles —his portrayal of a psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting is my all-time favorite.
As someone who gave so much of himself to others, Robin struggled privately with addiction and severe depression which can distort your thinking and make a period of depression feel endless.
The truth is that we don’t talk enough about depression. If you are worried for yourself, a friend or a loved one simply talking about it can be helpful. Learning the signs, symptoms and treatment options about depression and other mental health conditions is a place to start. You can visit www.nami.org or call the NAMI HelpLine at (800) 850-NAMI for information and support. If you are in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
We all deal with loss in different ways. Some of us might have watched Robin Williams’ movies yesterday or remembered a time we saw perform. Others spoke about how depression had affected them and how they related to him. Almost as soon as the news broke many NAMI supporters made memorial donations in honor of “Robin” or “Mork” or even “O Captain! My Captain.” Others were inspired to call the NAMI HelpLine to volunteer.
Mental illness can be isolating. But it doesn’t have to be. When we talk about mental illness, depression and suicide we inform each other about how to help.
Robin Williams will be missed. We wish him peace. We offer our condolences and thoughts to his family as we say goodbye to a fearless and beloved entertainer.
Dr. Ken Duckworth
Medical Director, NAMI