With the passing of Robin Williams, I know just like a myriad of others, this news has hit me heavily. Mr. Williams, despite never meeting me, has definitely made me feel as though I have met him. Through childhood movies that have sparked hilarity, this fun and loving man will truly be missed. It is no surprise to anyone that have followed the news of his death, that the leading suspicion of his passing was by asphyxiation– suicide. There are many articles touching this delicate topic, but I would just like to give my two cents on the matter.
There have been a lot of comments regarding Mr. William’s suicide: “How could a comedian, a wealthy and (seemingly) happy man do such a thing?” “What a selfish act, to leave his family and friends and fans”, and more alike. The lack of education on depression and mental illness disturbs me very much.
Firstly, depression is an illness, though definitely stigmatized as something that can be alleviated with a boost of joyful events, therapy, and maybe medication. But like any other illness, say, cancer, organ failures, and others, depression is no different, and should be treated just as severely. Now, I am aware that comparing a mental illness to something as unrelenting as cancer may seem like a caustic remark. But society has somehow made dying of cancer justifiable as the patient cannot help the effects of the malignant disease. Should depression be undersized because you can’t pinpoint the cause, a physical deterioration in the head? As one’s body may shut down due to their incurable disease, so the same occurs to a chronically depressed individual, as suicide becomes the last resort. Suicide is a choice, but it isn’t a decision so black and white.
Suicide is not selfish. By saying so, I believe it is only harming the deceased and encouraging the stigma of mental illness. Depression can be very debilitating. It can suck away one’s happiness, will, purpose, and anchor anyone down into oblivion. It is something that can be helped, but not always successfully. Someone who has suffered for most of their life with depression may never find the right mix of antidotes– no medication, no therapy, not exercises of the mind and body may be right for them, and thus succumb to suicide. Can a person in constant torment be sympathized when they opt out of their life?
In no way am I encouraging the idea of taking your own life. Those working in suicide prevention groups will say that suicide is a choice, as they do not want to come off as saying an individual’s inevitable fate is to commit suicide. However, it is important to know that suicide isn’t done in vain. I have learned that 50% of those who take their own life are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and the other 50%, a majority, if not all, do not wish for suicide. Under their current circumstances, however, given no choice or way towards recovery, their only path is to end life themselves.
There are those that are hit by an incredibly insufferable event– the death of a relative, a traumatic injury– something in the moment causing so much unremitting torment that drives someone to commit suicide. And then there are those that are faced with a minor frustration– like not being able to find a parking spot, being unable to wake up on time– that can cause the same resolution. It may sound stupid, but it isn’t that these people commit suicide due to these little interferences, but that they have been suffering for so long that the slightest thing will push them over the edge, and they have simply run out of resistance, of fight, of self worth.
If you know someone struggling with depression, with thoughts of suicide, please be kind, please be patient. Guide them into professional attention. Be soft, but sharp if you need to. And if the absolute worst does occur, please, please, try to be understanding.