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Dealing with Depression in the Wake of Robin Williams’ Suicide

August 11, 2014 Natasha Tracy

If you haven’t heard the tragic news, I’m very sorry to tell you that Robin Williams died by apparent suicide, Monday, August 11, 2014. He was 63 years old. Williams suffered from substance abuse issues and likely bipolar disorder (his depression was confirmed recently by his publicist, bipolar not as much).

In other words, we lost one of us. We lost one of the bipolar/depression community at large. And the stark reality of losing a person with a mental illness who is so incredibly brilliant, talented and outwardly happy can easily bring about feelings of depression, anxiety and even our own thoughts of suicide. All of us, myself included, need to react to this tragically genuinely, but without allowing it to make our own mental health or depression worse.

Understanding that Williams suffered from depression, we all, as people with severe mental illnesses, could look to him as a person who was so intensely amazing in spite of mental illness that it offered hope.

But what do we do now that hope has been extinguished?

I’ll tell you what we do:

  1. We fight harder.
  2. We learn.
  3. We honour his life, not his death.

We Fight Harder in the Wake of Williams’ Suicide

[caption id="attachment_7917" align="alignright" width="218" caption="Williams Speaking, Wikipedia"]Robin Williams has died by suicide and this painful reality can bring about depression and suicidal thoughts in others. Here's what to do.[/caption]

It’s intensely tragic when any person loses their battle with suicide. I don’t want it to happen to another person – ever. But seeing that depression and suicide has claimed another victim, it must serve as a reminder that we have to stand and fight our demons for all those who no longer can. I think it’s easy to let a tragedy drag us down into a worsening bipolar depression but our job is to fight that. It’s a daily struggle for many and it’s incredibly hard, but we can do it. We are doing it.

We Learn from Suicide

Not only am I reminded to fight harder but I’m reminded to help others in their fights too. I’m reminded that it’s critical to reach out to anyone who may be suicidal and let them know there are options and that they can get better with help. We honour all those who have perished by trying to make sure that bipolar, depression and suicide don’t take one more life.

We Honour Williams’ Life, Not His Death

While I think it’s normal to fixate, momentarily, on this tragic news, the most important thing about Williams wasn’t the way he died but, rather, the way he lived. It was the way he brought smiles and laughter to people. It was his comedic genius. It was his philanthropic work. It was how he spoke out about his own struggles with mental health and addictions.

So if you feel depressed because such an amazing person has died – that’s normal – but honour him by watching Mrs. Doubtfire, old reruns of Mork and Mindy or simply by laughing at any interview the man ever did. Because we honour the fallen by honouring how they lived and fighting our own battles. Those lost were meaningful. They had impact. We are all better for their lives – even if those lives were cut short.

We will all miss what Williams’ might have given the world had he survived – and that is true of every person ever lost to suicide.

If you’re feeling suicidal right now reach out and call one of these helplines. It is not over. It is not the end. You can fight and you can win.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, August 11). Dealing with Depression in the Wake of Robin Williams’ Suicide, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2014/08/dealing-depression-in-wake-robin-williams-suicide



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook and YouTube.

Renita
November, 29 2014 at 5:44 am

I always thought that laughter was the best medicine until I learned that so many comedians suffer from depression, Freddie Prinze, Drew Carey, Ben Stiller, etc. It makes me so sad that someone like Robin Williams who brought so much joy to others ending up taking his own life. His movie The Birdcage resonates with me because my adoptive dad was gay. When dad divorced mom because he wanted to be true to himself as a gay man it was a very difficult transition for him and he tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. Later I was there for him when he died of cancer. Not many people know that until the 60's in BC it was considered illegal to be openly homosexual. At one time the DSM (the mental health professional's bible) considered homosexuality a mental illness, but it is no longer. My biological mother died by suicide. I'm glad I could at least be there for my dad.

Sharon
August, 27 2014 at 8:27 pm

@Marie, Virginia, Laurie There is a book called The Tipping Point. It is about how one thing can happen which will be the very thing to make something or an idea spread like wildfire. When a famous and beloved person commits suicide it makes others feel like it's ok if they do too. I know I felt this way when thinking about Robin Williams. Maybe not now, but...(hopefully there will be no but...) I fight this knowing that I do not want my kids to say their mother committed suicide.

ml.abney
August, 26 2014 at 5:22 pm

The news of Robin Williams' suicide has been shocking, and opened old wounds. My mother struggled with depression all her life, and after numerous attempts, she took her life in front of me in 1980. I was 20, and I was tasked with ensuring nobody found her alive. I spent the next few months grieving her death and blaming myself for not being able to do something. Then I got angry, and spent most of the next 20+ years hating her for her suicide, previous attempts, and alcoholism. It wasn't until I began struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts that I understood what she went through. 20 or so years ago I was diagnosed as BP, and clinically depressed. I've fought the BP diagnosis; Prozac helps me with depression. However, when I stop taking it, I go into wild mood swings ranging from need for little sleep, incredible creativity, feeling like I can conquer the world, racing thoughts that have to "fit" in a certain pattern, to fits of rage, and dark depression. By the grace of God I'm alive; some of the suicidal "visions" I've had are too horrid for me to even speak of.
It's my prayer that Robin Williams' death will not be in vain; rather, that it will open the eyes of the world to the reality of mental illness.

Mary-Louise Abney
August, 26 2014 at 4:35 pm

The news of Robin Williams' suicide has been shocking, and opened old wounds. My mother struggled with depression all her life, and after numerous attempts, she took her life in front of me in 1980. I was 20, and I was tasked with ensuring nobody found her alive. I spent the next few months grieving her death and blaming myself for not being able to do something. Then I got angry, and spent most of the next 20+ years hating her for her suicide, previous attempts, and alcoholism. It wasn't until I began struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts that I understood what she went through. 20 or so years ago I was diagnosed as BP, and clinically depressed. I've fought the BP diagnosis; Prozac helps me with depression. However, when I stop taking it, I go into wild mood swings ranging from need for little sleep, incredible creativity, feeling like I can conquer the world, racing thoughts that have to "fit" in a certain pattern, to fits of rage, and dark depression. By the grace of God I'm alive; some of the suicidal "visions" I've had are too horrid for me to even speak of.
Robin Williams' death is a loss too sad to express; it is my prayer that it will not be in vain, that we continue to celebrate his life, but also that "the world" will open its eyes to the reality and danger of mental illness. May the stigma be stomped for good.

Pamshills
August, 20 2014 at 4:15 am

What a wonderful way of trying to overcome such tradgedy. I STILL can,t help knowing; Robin Williams is NOW GONE FROM US.AND it makes me so sad. I am 60 and have lost MANY friends and loved ones, and FEAR my OWN SURCOMING to death, but, HAVE NO LOVED ONES NOR friends to REALLY GO TO, and DO wonder O what the Hell.Go run in front of a speeding TRAIN OR TRUCK at DUSK so they,ll think they just ran over an animal or bunch of cloths in the street, and just keep going and NOT have to feel bad for what was MY FAULT;I have no one who will miss me, or even give a hoot I,m gone!I,ve already GOT my burial planned and taken care of. BUT! THEY DO SAY: LIVING, is MUCH HARDER THEN DIEING" And for my HIGH SCHOOL speach back in 1972; I found a poem that lives down thru the ages, and a quote"The world bestows its smile on those; who have the strength to win!"

Marie
August, 19 2014 at 5:59 am

I too have been very depressed after Robin William's death. It's a good point that if he can't make it how can I?

Karen
August, 16 2014 at 9:46 am

What an incredibly written piece. I was hit very hard by his death as I fight depression, anxiety disorder and PTSD everyday. The only thing that kept going through my mind was that I have been on that precipice where you can just let go or live to fight another day. "We are all players on a stage" kept repeating in my head as I can hide my sickness so well. If there is a bright light in this, it is that I have never heard so many people talking about mental illness, ever. It was sad that it takes these type of circumstances to bring about this dialogue but again, he gave so much in life and his death has continued to bring so much. He has hopefully found peace at last, and in honour of him, I hope allot of us that are afflicted, continue to finish the fight.

jp
August, 16 2014 at 9:45 am

Thank you for addressing this. Since hearing of the suicide of Mr. Robin Williams, I have been very sad and tearful, and I couldn't really put a finger on why. Its just so tragic, and yet I've been that depressed before where suicide seems the only answer. But its not at all, that's the illness talking. I will honor Robin Williams by remembering his incomparable legacy.

Mary Lynn Mura
August, 15 2014 at 4:25 am

Natasha-Thank you for this tribute to Robin Williams. You celebrated his life AND shared the sadness of his death by suicide. Beautifully written. There have been several suicides in my family of origin. My hope is that we can continue to raise awareness and offer real help to this generation and the next. A favorite movie to make me laugh when I was down was RV with Robin Williams. That will now be bittersweet. -Mary Lynn

Virginia
August, 14 2014 at 4:49 pm

Natasha, the hardest part of learning he committed suicide, if he couldn't make it, how can the average person? I guess deep down we are all the same. People desperately trying to take it one minute, one hour, or one day at a time. Hopefully for us "this too shall pass". Hugs to all.

Dlarson
August, 13 2014 at 6:24 pm

Thank you Natasha for celebrating life while also acknowledging the many struggles of bipolar and depression. I have been in that place of believing everyone would be better off. That is the deepest of depression when only ending the cycle will bring peace; or so I believed. Climbing out of that dark hole is unthinkable in that moment, but yet we do....again, and again. I have no doubt Robin made that climb many times. He gave so much to so many. His tragedy will bring an awareness that will save lives. So sad he reached that point of no return.
If you know or even suspect someone is depressed reach out, say something, offer/get help. My heart goes out to the ones left behind that will question if they could have done more.

E
August, 13 2014 at 10:07 am

It is unsettling how Robin being bipolar is not discussed. Among other places where it is confirmed…. one of his best friends Bob Zmuda on a recent interview regarding his sad passing is quoted as saying this.
ZMUDA: Oh, yeah, even me. It would be like speaking with a total stranger in an elevator. It was so odd. But if another person came in, then all of a sudden you were an audience and Robin could become alive. That's why he was so good at what his psychological imperative in life had to be to perform. This is why he was so good at it. And, you know, he was bipolar and, of course, when you get in a situation, his highs were highs and, unfortunately, his lows were very, very low.

Lauri
August, 13 2014 at 9:16 am

I have been dealing with depression all my life. I am very conflicted about his suicide, one time I think I need to try harder and the next his suicide is telling me it's O.K. to check out and stop the pain.
I see my Dr soon and hope they can help straighten out my confusion. Like so many this has hit me harder than I would have expected.

Bianca
August, 13 2014 at 5:05 am

Well put Natssha, I myself am a person witrh chronic depression, so I've see also the deepest of the deep ant ried to end my life because of it and thankfully survived and are still living and survivng every day. Justlast weekend my new neighbour tried to commit suicide, but survived, and I was with here while we were waiting for the ambulance. I was a steep learning curve for me to see the other side of the people left behind. MarieD, I'm also very happy fot all the money going to (new) cancertreatments, for I also survived cancer and don't forget that people who have a menatal illnees are also more prone to getting cancer.

Greg Weber
August, 12 2014 at 6:49 pm

It's very sad. I grew up with his movies. I remember watching Mork & Mindy on TV when I was in grade school. I'm shocked and stunned.

Chris
August, 12 2014 at 5:33 pm

Unfortunately, I know the anguish Mr. Williams was in. I was there twice. I wish I could have talked with him and let him know he was not alone. There are far to many of us who fight the same battle everyday. I am one of the lucky ones in that my attempts have failed. Today I am thankful for that, but sadden that Mr. Williams was not so fortunate. You are so right in that we should celebrate his life. He brought great joy into my life, wich is a hard feat indeed. I will always rember; Mork and Mindy; Mrs Doubtfire; Good Morning Vietnam; Good Will Hunting; Patch Adams; Dead Poets Sociaty; One Hour Photo; The Birdcage; The Fisher King; and so many more.

Nielle
August, 12 2014 at 7:19 am

Thank you Natasha. I am bipolar and recently lost a friend to suicide who struggled with mental illness and unemployment, just as I have. It is difficult not to let this kind of tragedy pull me into a dark place... Robin did so much with his life, he fought so hard. I try to focus on that... It will continue to be a fight. But we are never alone.

MarieD Rouleau
August, 12 2014 at 3:15 am

If only there was half the money put in cancer treatment and research given to mental illnesses reasearch and treatment, the world would be better for it.

Dougie
August, 11 2014 at 11:34 pm

I think when you get to Robin Williams stage , your completely beaten. You feel your a burden, riddled with guilt, that your doing the right thing for your family, they are better without you. And you want the immense pain to stop.
At 63 he must have had to much. I know I have been there at 43.

Wendy Yarnold
August, 11 2014 at 10:20 pm

Beautifully written Natasha <3

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