Robin Williams’ death has struck me in an unusual manner. Ordinarily the death of someone I don’t know or haven’t met is only a passing shadow, I feel a fleeting moment of sadness, empathy for the family and friends of the departed. When a famous person dies, there is sometimes a minor, selfish feeling of loss, which just because I liked a character they pretended to be does not mean that I knew or liked the person they were in private.
The peculiar cult of celebrity gives us insight into these people through the media; magazines, websites, TV and online media. All of which gives us the illusion of personal connection; regularly seeing people in our homes, reading about them, seeing photos of intimate times and details of their lives. With extensive coverage of a trip to the shops in sweatpants and a t-shirt sans make up, it is little wonder that the pressure of so much exposure leads to drug and alcohol abuse.
The awareness of Mental illness and depression has grown enormously in the past decade. Jeff Kennett with Beyond Blue in Australia, Jimi Hunt with Live More Awesome and Sir John Kirwan’s involvement with depression.org.nz has raised the need for people (men in particular) to reach out and ask for help. They have made it OK to need help, and I thank them for their work. Robin Williams’ personal battle with depression has been well publicised, but this price for raising awareness of depression is too high. Far too high. And this is why I mourn him, that he saw no other way out than violence against himself.
I will miss Robin Williams’ stand up comedy, the magnificent eccentricities he brought to every character he portrayed, and the honesty with which he approached mental health and addiction. My grief is for us all, for the loss of a man who enriched our lives, gave so many opportunities to laugh, and enabled us to see the funny side of things… it is for myself that I mourn.
Finally, if you are feeling like there is something missing, like there is no way out. Please reach out. You’re not alone, and there are people who can help. Trust me, I know.