Robin Williams' Comic Genius, Depression and Parkinson's Diagnosis: Were they the 'Perfect Storm' for Suicide?

From Standup Comedy, Robin Ventured into TV as an Alien

On the set of "Mork & Mindy" in 1978
On the set of "Mork & Mindy" in 1978 | Source

Depression Without Obvious Cause


The theory I’m about to advance in this article is entirely my own, and I hasten to add that I have no psychiatric, medical or other expert credentials to back it up. However, I do have personal experiences and powers of observation that led to my hypothesis. If you’re interested in my thoughts, read on….

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Robin Williams, whose suicide on August 11, 2014, shocked and saddened fans worldwide, was long suspected of suffering from either clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Both disorders lend themselves to ‘self-medicating’, often leading the sufferers into substance abuse, which only worsens their underlying problems and encumbers them with yet another major disorder to battle.

Clinical depression is characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest in normal activities in the absence of external triggers, such as grief. An imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain can cause an individual’s mood to plunge and lead to severe depression for no obvious reason, a mental state which may have a genetic component. Two of the signs of clinical depression may be a pervasive feeling of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with anti-depressants may help a sufferer break free of depression by learning to change his or her thought patterns.

Unfortunately, deeply depressed individuals whose condition is long-term may become adept at hiding their feelings of distress and contemplation of self-destruction. Who, I ask, could be more successful at concealing such thoughts than a consummate actor such as Robin Williams?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness (formerly labeled ‘manic-depressive’) that causes the sufferer to fluctuate between episodes of extreme energy, focus and productivity (mania) and severe, relentless depression. Types of the disorder range from mild to severe, with severe cases experiencing the broadest extremes of mania and depression.

These days, there are multiple medications that can be prescribed for the bipolar patient, but it’s often necessary to try several over a period of time to find one or more that will help an individual. Some people diagnosed with bipolar disorder say they can’t face being medicated every day, especially since their specific meds may hinder them from feeling like themselves. Some bipolar patients on medication that levels their moods actually miss the periods of mania, which may have felt euphoric to them. This can cause them to stop taking prescriptions that prevent or lessen mood swings, with the expected results.

Can you imagine anyone more likely to hate feeling ‘tamped down’ by medication than the man who became legendary for maniacally unleashing cascades of irrepressible free association upon an adoring public? He was frequently described as a ‘manic comedian’ or ‘the comic with a manic delivery.’ Would Robin Williams believe that loss of all manic impulses spelled disaster for his career?

Years of Performing for U.S. Soldiers

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Struggles with Addiction

Robin’s struggles with addiction and mental illness are well documented in interviews during which he talked freely, and sometimes jokingly, about his addiction to cocaine (a stimulant) and alcohol (a depressant). He even hinted at the manic-depressive cycles of bipolar disorder to Terry Gross on the “Fresh Air” NPR radio show in 2006.

“Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes,” he admitted. “Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh, yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh, yeah.”

Yet, he never acknowledged a bipolar diagnosis or divulged anything about treatment. Whether or not he was truly bipolar remains speculative among friends and the public, but the signs were there. There is no doubt, however, that he suffered severe depression, and friends say in retrospect they’d witnessed it getting worse. Perhaps they'd observed him rebound from that deep, dark place in the past and expected him to do it again.

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From the moment he burst on the scene in his inspired stand-up comedy routine (think back to HBO in the ‘70s if you’re old enough), the style of which was unique and mind-blowingly uproarious, followed by his popular stint on TV’s “Mork and Mindy”, Robin’s comedy genius was apparent. We had never before seen a performer such as he, and the magic was only beginning. He would go on to build an astounding body of work through nearly four decades.

His ability to improvise at lightning speed will likely never be equaled. Directors and co-stars of his movies and TV performances talk about his frequent launch into improvisational riffs on the set, including while the cameras were on him. His adlibs were often funnier than the script and, consequently, many were left in. Did you know that Robin improvised most of the radio rants he gave as the irreverent disk jockey in the movie, “Good Morning, Vietnam?” Yes, he was that gifted, and most of his directors were astute enough to give him improvisational carte blanche.


Wins Oscar for "Good Will Hunting"

Momentarily speechless!
Momentarily speechless! | Source


Who among his fans can forget watching him do standup comedy on TV as we nearly fell out of our chairs laughing? His rapid-fire delivery seemed to be pouring hysterical humor uncensored straight from his brain circuits?

When performing comedy he appeared to be rollicking in joyousness, as euphoric over the humor as his audience. This may have been true when his mood was one of elation, but I can’t help but wonder if that appearance may, at times, have concealed the melancholy against which he fought. It’s possible he only felt truly alive when performing—sharing his comedic gift with an audience and making others laugh. Who knows how long his comedy may have kept the demons of his depression at bay?

Even though his style of comedy delivery was unparalleled, Robin, who earned an Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” was equally gifted as a serious actor—lauded by both the critics and his peers for his dramatic roles. I was always keenly aware of the quality of his voice and phrasing when I watched one of his dramatic movies. He worked a different kind of magic with the nuances of that incredible resonant voice.

He had Fans Everywhere

Who else other than Robin Williams could make Prince Charles laugh in a reception line?
Who else other than Robin Williams could make Prince Charles laugh in a reception line? | Source

Poignant Memories


There are tributes to him all over the world this week—on TV, in magazine articles and blogs, online videos, on social networks (Twitter is working overtime), and yesterday I read something Dick Cavett said in a TIME article (August 12, 2014).

“His death recalled a moment with him years ago in a small club. He came offstage after bringing a cheering audience to its feet. ‘Isn’t it funny how I can bring great happiness to all these people,’ he said, ‘but not to myself?’”

Cavett also remembered talking with Robin about how galling it was when people asked, “What do you have to be depressed about?”

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Jerry Leichtling is a screenwriter, playwright, lyricist, and political writer. He posted the column, “Robin Williams: The Secret Room” on Huffington Post’s ‘The Blog’ on August 15, 2014. His tribute to his long-time friend, Robin, is beautiful, and I urge you to read it in its entirety. The last line, in particular, is awesome. (You won't find it here--no spoilers.)

Leightling says of Williams, “He was the consummate gleaner—he would take in everything, swirl the data in his blender and pour out his wild mash-ups.”

Delving deeper into the comic’s seemingly inexhaustible comic inspiration during a serious conversation they once had, Leightling described him as ‘impossibly fast.’ Robin responded that the adlibs which seemed to be lightning in a bottle were often carefully selected from his vast mental Rolodex®. When you think about it, the ability to remember such an immense amount of material and instantly retrieve the perfect cache of one-liners from the mind’s depths validates this man’s genius. Yet their emergence always appeared like a frenetic burst of energy to his audience. His mind and his verbosity were always in sync.

Depression can Blind the Sufferer to Potential Solutions

The depressed person may be overwhelmed and forget to attempt problem solving.
The depressed person may be overwhelmed and forget to attempt problem solving. | Source

The Depressed Mind Deceives


Suicide is a menacing choice that becomes feasible because of the lies depression tells its sufferers. When a person is tormented by severe and ongoing depression, as apparently Robin Williams was, the depressed brain insists, “You’d be better off dead. So would the people you’re hurting. You’re worthless. Your life will never get any better.”

It’s an insidious message that accumulates mental poison through repetition until, at the perfect time and lining up of events, it launches its strongest and most persuasive salvo.

Sufferers of ruthless depression may seek medical and psychiatric help, undergo cognitive therapy or even electro-convulsive therapy, take anti-depressants and other medications (such as those that treat the depression of bipolar disorder) and manage to fight off and overcome these dangerous thoughts.

Others, however, may eventually become so exhausted from constant emotional bombardment that they give in and listen to depression's falsehoods…believing the depressed mind’s dire predictions and losing hope. Depressed people are notoriously effective at hiding the seriousness of their condition from the people best placed and most likely to help them. This is why so many "survivors" of suicide (family and friends--even mental health practitioners) feel guilt because they couldn't recognize what was about to happen and prevent it.


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Some Medical Diagnoses Should be Given with Warnings about Depression

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What Effect did the Parkinson's Diagnosis Have?


Since reading about his wife's announcement that Robin was recently diagnosed and coping with Parkinson's Disease, I believe the disheartening diagnosis plus experiencing whatever PD symptoms drove him to the doctor--coupled with his severe depression--must have been the proverbial last straw for Robin. It was difficult enough for him to fight for years against the weight of severe depression…to continue battling his dual demons of drug and alcohol addiction in order to stay sober. His recent return to rehab for a ‘booster shot’ may have been caused by the emotional trauma of a PD diagnosis that made it harder for him to maintain sobriety.

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Here I digress into my personal observations about initial reactions (which may persist for months or longer) when one is diagnosed with an incurable and potentially progressive medical disorder. In my late forties, I began having involuntary muscle spasms that caused my eyes to close and squeeze shut against my conscious will. It took the greater part of a year for me to be accurately diagnosed and start on treatment. Then, the treatment took longer to actually work than expected before I could function normally…or nearly so.

During my first year with bilateral Blepharospasm (a neuromuscular movement disorder that’s a medical ‘cousin’ of Parkinson’s Disease), I was despondent, upset and experienced feelings of hopelessness. After my treatment took effect, I learned that suicide was not uncommon among people with this and other movement disorders if they did not respond to treatment. While I never contemplated ending my own life, I understood the misery and frustration of a body unresponsive to the commands of one’s mind. I’d experienced it. Throughout decades of treatment since then, on several occasions my condition has again been unresponsive to treatment. When that happens, I feel the initial misery and frustration all over again. But I know there is still hope for a better response next time.

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Can you imagine how the expectation of increasing Parkinson’s symptoms—especially dyskenesia (uncontrolled movements), ‘brain fog’, unsteady gait,—any neurological aspect, for that matter, must have seemed to such a brilliant comic and actor who relied on the instantaneous virtuosity from his brain to create unmatched performances?

This disease, he surely realized, had the potential to hinder his ability for improvisation and spontaneity, normal movement and clarity of thought. It could change his ability significantly to perform in the style for which he was famous. He’d recently marked another birthday. At 63, the combination of depression and the prospect of progressive debilitation from Parkinson’s may have made him feel older than his years.

The potential destruction that might be wrought upon his mind and body might, I think, be unbearable for Robin Williams, already struggling under the ruthlessness of his depression. The knowledge that he might lose the ability to perform at his best must have weighed constantly on his mind until his terrors coalesced into the catalyst for tragedy on August 11. At that moment, I think he simply could not face it and did not share that feeling with anyone. If only he'd talked to Michael J. Fox, who is the most public face of PD and a friend of Robin's! MJ could have told him of his own early feelings about the disease and how he came to terms with it--even overcame obstacles and returned to acting. But Robin's wife says he wasn't yet ready to make his condition known.

Under this burden that must have seemed like the forces of a physical and mental storm converging on him, he made a decision that saddens everyone who loved him—even those of us who only felt as though we personally knew him from watching his performances, enjoying his interviews and reading articles about him that showcased his gentle, caring humanity. This past week I’ve read numerous comments by ordinary people—fans whose only contact with this talented man were viewing him onscreen and reading about him. Fans, like me, who shed tears upon learning of his death and shed still more when reading or hearing the outpouring of tributes to the shooting star brightening our sky who was the phenomenal Robin Williams.

With his passing, the brilliant light of Robin’s creativity was extinguished. Although there are still several movies that haven't been released, they will be the last from the pipeline.

But, oh! Aren’t we enormously privileged to have so much of his magic immortalized on video, on audio and in print? As long as we can laugh at “Mrs. Doubtfire”, feel revitalized by “Good Will Hunting” and “Dead Poets Society”, and relive the gifts he gave us—both comic and dramatic—through hundreds of hours of archived performances, Robin Williams’ amazing talent will live on for us and successive generations.


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I watched a video tribute this week that incorporated brief clips of Robin in various roles with a voice-over of the actor delivering that incomparable graduation address from the movie, “Jack.” Its words are indelibly appropriate:

“In the end none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer skies, when the stars are strung across the velvety night, and a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day. Make a wish. Think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”

Godspeed, Robin.




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If you know someone who shows signs of depression, even if he or she tries to hide it behind a smiling facade, please take a chance on being rebuffed and talk to your friend or loved one about the dangers of untreated depression. Be there to listen, and encourage that person to seek professional help. Depression--all types of depression--can be lessened or alleviated with appropriate treatment. The tragic death of Robin Williams is shining a spotlight on depression now, which may make it easier for sufferers to talk about this insidious and dangerous illness.

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Thanks for reading and supporting this HubPages writer!

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Please join the discussion and leave comments. Your feedback is valuable to me as well as to other readers.

NOTE: I am the author of this article, and it is owned by me in entirety.It is not available for use by reproducing in any form without my express written permission. If you see all or any part of this article (as written) on another site, please notify me where it can be found. Theft of a writer's work is plagiarism, and stealing another person's words is no less unethical and illegal than any other theft.

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In Memory of Robin Williams: 1951 - 2014

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Comments 63 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 months ago from Deep South, USA Author

Jotran - I hope, as you do, that more people will become aware of the tragic potential of depression and other mental illness and that those who feel hopelessness will seek the professional help they need to survive the shoals of misery. Thank you for your insightful comments.

Regards, Jaye


Jotan1970 profile image

Jotan1970 4 months ago from Norfolk, England

I really hope that by reading hubs like this and those related to mental health people will become more aware of the signs of mental health issues either in themselves or those around them and find the strength to ask for help or give strength to others to ask for help. In my line of work I hear of so many people who say they feel misunderstood. Perhaps through tragedy others may be saved. I shall look out for more hubs.


Jotan1970 profile image

Jotan1970 4 months ago from Norfolk, England

Thank you for the welcome! Much appreciated. I'd appreciate your feedback too.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 months ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Jo, and I look forward to reading your new hub about the tragedy of depression and the loss of Robin Williams. I will watch for it. By the way, welcome to HubPages.

Regards,

Jaye


Jotan1970 profile image

Jotan1970 4 months ago from Norfolk, England

I have just submitted a post regarding Robin Williams and am awaiting it being authorised as I am a newbie on this site, I was and still am a massive fan of Robin Williams and was so very sad at his passing, depression, mental health issues as a whole are horrendous issues and not given nearly enough credence and support from governments with funding to lessen their effects. I truly hope that lives like his and those not famous are not wasted and highlight the need for compassion and understanding in a hard and tumultuous world as they say, if you can't find a good person, be one. Well done on your writing and research. Jo x


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia

Jaye it is called "Autopsy: The Last Days of Robin Williams

This link is for the Australian television viewing but you may be able to access through this.

http://www.tvtonight.com.au/2015/10/autopsy-the-la...


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 13 months ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for the update, Jodah. The additional information somehow reassures me that Robin may not have chosen suicide without the undiagnosed dementia. It's still a very sad end for a wonderful artist and humanitarian, but even more understandable. Will you tell me the name of this documentary? Perhaps I can find it on U.S. streaming TV. Thanks. Jaye


Jodah profile image

Jodah 14 months ago from Queensland Australia

Jaye, I just watched a documentary on TV about the results of the autopsy on Robin William's brain so I came back to reread this hub. It appears he didn't only have depression and Parkinson's Disease as first indications showed. He actually had a rapid accelerating form of dementia (that had not been diagnosed before his death). His entire brain was infected not just the part that is normally targeted by Parkinson's.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 24 months ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Phil, for reading this hub and for your thoughtful comments. It's so unfortunate and sad that multiple causes for depression descended into Robin Williams' life within a relatively short period. How emotionally painful it must have been for him. I wish his suicide could have been anticipated and prevented. The world lost not only a special talent but a caring human with his death. Of course, his family lost even more.

Regards, Jaye


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 24 months ago from Montreal, Quebec

Well thought out and well reasoned hub. It was very sad news, the passing of Robin Williams, and I think your linking it to his PD diagnosis is apt.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Schoolgirlforreal - Thanks for your comments. I'm so glad you're better and no longer suffering from suicidal depression. I read your hub about bipolar disorder, which someone I care about struggles with, so I know what difficulties with depression it causes. I'm not familiar with the medication you mentioned in your hub, but my loved one finally got the right mood leveler (a different med). Because individuals react differently to various medications, it is often a trial-and-error process that takes a while. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of people suffering from depression who are bipolar and don't know it. Your faith is a very important aspect of your recovery from feeling suicidal, plus being properly diagnosed and getting the right meds to keep bipolar in check was also crucial. Bless you and stay well....Jaye


schoolgirlforreal profile image

schoolgirlforreal 2 years ago from USA

I've had suicidal depressions but I believe God will get you thru anything. I always cried out to him for help and praise God I am doing better today.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for your comments, Mary, also for the vote, etc. I recall when my late stepfather had bypass heart surgery and was very depressed for months afterward. Even after he healed from the surgery, his personality seemed out of sorts for nearly a year. Mom told me the surgeon prepared them for that possibility since it's common. Eventually, he was back to his normal self, but with Robin Williams the Parkinson's diagnosis probably came so quickly on the heels of heart surgery that he didn't have time to recover. Very sad, and I feel sad every time I think of him. I haven't been able to watch any of his movies again yet, but I will at some point. He was a very talented man and, from all accounts, a caring individual.

Thanks for stopping by....Jaye


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

I just saw Good Will Hunting on TV just last night. I had seen it before, and enjoyed it once again. I read that RW had open heart surgery a few years back and it brought back memories I had of a good friend whose husband had open heart surgery. She said he was depressed after the surgery. She researched and found others had experienced the same thing.....something to do with the brain being deprived of oxygen while on the hear-lung machine. Just a thought: maybe this surgery contributed to his depression; who knows?

At any rate, he will certainly be missed.

Voted this Hub UP, etc. and shared.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you for reading this, Peggy. Yes, the surviving family and friends of a suicide suffer tremendously, and my heart aches for them. It will take a long time for them to mourn, and they will never really get over the trauma. Jaye

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Shyron - I'm sure every person who knew Robin well is asking, "Why didn't I....?" That is the question survivors always ask, and they have to fight guilt. It's so very sad. Blessings to you too, my friend. Jaye

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Thank you, Rebecca. I'm glad this article added to your insight about this tragic death. Blessings to you as well.... Jaye


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

It was so good of you to write this. It gave me another perspective on Robin's suicide. Thanks so much, Blessings!


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

They say that hindsight is 20/20 but is it? If we could bring Robin back, would we listen to his pleas and still not hear them? I think he cried out for help in every performance, and no one listened.

I thank you for writing this amazing work of art, I wish his family could read this.

Blessing to you dear friend.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

Mourning a death for those who love a person is always hard but losing one to suicide is particularly hard. So very sorry for the family and friends of Robin Williams and all of his fans as well. It is so sad that he felt as though that was his best solution to how he was feeling at the time.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Audrey, for reading and joining this discussion. I've read that people who consider suicide likely don't do so because they wish to die--after all, the human instinct is to live--they only want their intolerable emotional pain to stop. At that moment, self-administered death seems to them the only way to accomplish it.

By the time someone at that level of pain reaches the point of taking an irreversible action, he or she may feel unable to talk to anyone, even those persons who are closest, those who would normally be approached as confidants. This is the tragedy of severe, unrelenting depression and suicidal ideation, that the sufferer is locked inside walls of mental pain that he or she feels can no longer be breached by anyone.

Family and friends of someone known or suspected (1) to suffer from depression, (2) to suffer from a disorder that may induce depression, (3) to be taking medication that may cause suicidal ideation, and/or (4) who has made suicide attempts should learn to recognize and act on any sign their loved one may be contemplating suicide. If the situation is immediately approached, tragedy may be averted. No one should ever be hesitant to ask the question, "Are you thinking about suicide?"

One of the many articles I've read recently about suicide and ways to prevent it was written by Jeffrey Kruger on August 13, 2014 and published online by TIME Magazine. I discovered it when I was beginning a follow-up article about signs of depression and suicide prevention. I decided that the media was being deluged with such articles since Robin Williams' death, Kruger's article was excellent, and I will recommend it instead of adding to the mountain of words. There also many helpful commentaries on this topic published by psychological experts. The world's attention is now focused on depression and other mental health issues, a constructive reaction to a terrible event that made compassionate people feel helpless.

Regards, Jaye


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Any or all of these seem like they would be enough if one were suicidal. Sometimes, people are very clear that suicide is the way for them. Sometimes, less clear. In all cases, talking about it helps, even if only to feel no so very alone in your feelings


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

DealForaLiving: Thanks for reading and your comment. The teen years (even at their best) are fraught with insecurities, hormonal changes, mood swings, sleep deficits, problems (perceived or real) at school and home, possible bullying, feeling alone and 'out of it', for some a roiling tempest of emotional angst--you name it and teens experience it, but they don't realize that things can or will get any better. Youths are very vulnerable to depression, and for many people who suffer from mental health disorders, this is the time of life when those disorders first surface.

And don't forget the mimic factor. TV and social media inform teens that others commit suicide, so a teenager who is very depressed may think, 'That's the way out of this misery for me.' I also believe that social media causes a lot of additional problems for teens, not limited to online bullying. Parents, teachers, friends and others who regularly observe this age group should be on the watch for signs of depression. While there's no set formula for recognizing depression or suicidal tendencies in teens or any age, there are some signs of depression and intervention is actually easier with teens than it is with adults because a parent can get help for them without their consent.

Then there's the conundrum of medications for depression and how they sometimes cause suicidal ideation in teens before they begin working to level out moods. That probably is connected to the hormonal imbalances in this age group, but it's a major problem--trying to get the young person started on the right medication that will ease the symptoms (which doesn't happen overnight or even quickly) while monitoring for suicidal thoughts and preventing tragedy.

Regards,

Jaye


DealForALiving profile image

DealForALiving 2 years ago from Earth

A recipe for suicide? I wish we could actually identify one and do something about all the youth suicides with the explosion of social media.

Robin Williams' life was interesting and influential, but I want to know why our young people are so hopeless and give up before the halfway point of life.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

John - Thanks for the read and your comment. The analogy of bipolar disorder added to Parkinson's Disease as being like a 'poison pill' seems pretty much on the mark. Each condition has a depressive component, and each probably heightened the effect of the other.

Regards, Jaye

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Thanks so much for the vote and feedback, Shyron. It makes me very sad to think of how desperate Robin Williams must have felt by his last day. The man who brought joy to millions through his talent could not help himself. What a tragedy, but you're so right that someone who never experienced that degree of depression can only speculate, not really relate to it.

Hope your weekend's gone well.....Jaye


pocono foothills profile image

pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

Hi Jaye-Thanks for the very informational article. My wife is a care-giver for a lady who has Parkinson's disease and it's not only devastating for the patient, but it affects the entire family. Bi-Polar disorder and Parkinson's together is pretty much a poison pill.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

I felt so sad for Robin, he must have felt like a prisoner in his own body. He must have been like a person who laughs to keep from crying.

You did a wonderful job on this subject. It is hard for anyone to understand this subject and relate to it unless the person has been there.

How can we say how we would react?

Voted up, UAI, and shared.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Au fait - You've added valuable insight concerning the biological causes of depression, and your description was superb. Your comment was in great contrast to the statement I read by actor Al Pacino this morning making light of depression and comparing it to occasional sadness. My opinion of him plummeted. All too many people who haven't suffered severe depression consider it a bout of 'the blues', but they do great harm in expressing that view.

You and I both experienced unusual past weeks. Mine was taken up by numerous projects undertaken for others, none of which I begrudge, but which used much of my time.

I also had delightful visits from two sets of great-grandchildren (brought by a parent or grandparent), which I enjoyed immensely.

I hope to be more productive and have more time to read on HP in the upcoming week. I have two unfinished new hubs 'in the hopper', so will concentrate on completing and publishing them.

Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your take on clinical depression to the discussion.

Have a good Sunday (what's left of it).......Jaye


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

Loved Robin Williams' comedy and his movies, comedy or not. What a shock that he left us by his own hand! Sadly, comedians are prone to this sort of thing and it's very sad that someone who brought so much joy and happiness to this world was so unhappy in it. I hope you will find the time to read the article written by the editor of Crack magazine because he addresses this issue regarding comedians extremely well.

One of the symptoms of Parkinson's is depression. So if RW was depressed even before developing Parkinson's, the Parkinson's would have made it worse.

As I've stated previously, for some reason people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea that the brain may not be functioning at its best, and that alone, totally aside from outside influences, can bring about severe depression.

Sort of like a broken leg can cause a person to limp regardless of the terrain they are trying to walk on, and regardless of anything else going on in their life. We can see the broken leg, but we can't see the impaired brain and so we imagine that nothing negative could possibly affect something we can't see. It must be the inability to face life's challenges that is causing the problem -- except that sometimes it isn't.

Sometimes it is entirely biological and that biological issue can cause us to see the world differently than most people see it. Chemical imbalance in the brain can cause us to have feelings that make no sense to ourselves or anyone else, we just know we feel badly.

Sorry to take so long to get back, but as I've told others, work started up again and this past week was truly a week from hell, horrid awful heat and all. I spent almost no time at all on HP. Just couldn't squeeze it in, and now I'm way behind. Take care, Jaye . . .


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Deb. I appreciate your kind words about this hub. I've always considered Robin Williams a very talented actor, particularly in dramatic roles (not always an easy switch for a comic).

If he was burdened with clinical depression or even bipolar disorder (the latter only a supposition) throughout his adult life, his achievements in his profession are all the more remarkable because his performances were so public, even when filming movies. Perhaps creativity was for him a means of escaping depression during the time he was 'being' someone else for the stage or camera.

Take care.....Jaye


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I grew up with Robin in Mork and Mindy, which I loved to watch. Some of his comedy was not the best to me, but I did like his movies. He was very gifted and will never be forgotten. You did a wonderful job on this piece. Thank you for you diligence and hard work on it.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Donna, for reading and your feedback. Yes, he will truly be missed by many. Regards, Jaye


DonnaCaprio profile image

DonnaCaprio 2 years ago from Newburyport, MA

A terrific article about a man that brought joy to so many. Your thoughts are welcomed and make sense. He will be surely missed by so many.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Liz. Yes, it pains my heart to know how he must have felt.

Jaye


epbooks profile image

epbooks 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Excellent hub. It is so sad that Robin Williams was suffering greatly - a talented genius. :(


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Laura, for reading this article and for your comments. You said so well what many people are thinking and feeling about this tragic death.

Regards, Jaye


Laura335 profile image

Laura335 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

This Hub is really well done and well thought out. It really puts things into perspective. We the public did not see this coming, but as more information was revealed about his mental and physical health, it shows just how low and hopeless he must have felt. So, while it doesn't make his actions any more acceptable, it does make them more understandable. It's was surreal grieving for someone I never met this past week, and it was a very unifying experience to grieve along with other fans who never met him, acquaintances who had met him once or twice, close friends who talked to him all the time, and his close family members who are going to miss him most.


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JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Flourish, for your insightful feedback. I know you understand that learning one has an incurable progressive disease is traumatic. Your HP name says it all; you flourish anyway.

As you pointed out, though, not everyone has the inner resources or support system to carry them past the initial shock of a traumatic diagnosis to the acceptance stage where they learn to cope. And, if a person is already suffering from long-term severe depression, there may be no emotional strength in reserve, nothing with which to absorb the blow. That can prove catastrophic.

You’re right about the need for more support from medical professionals for patients who may be stricken to learn they have a disease that will dramatically change their lives. Doctors must deliver so much bad news that some may distance themselves from their patients’ feelings in self-defense. Nevertheless, it should be standard practice to follow any serious diagnosis with an immediate referral to a mental health professional as a preventive tactic. Twice, I realized the need to refer myself to a therapist, and did. The third time, I brought a dog into my life. It is no exaggeration to say her presence pulled me through a very difficult period.

Thanks for sharing this article. Take care….Jaye

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you, Yvonne. I appreciate your votes and sharing. I'm glad this article was helpful to you, and I understand how you must be feeling about Robin Williams' death. I, too, was a big fan of his throughout his career as well as an admirer for the many things he did to help people. He will be genuinely missed by throngs of fans around the world. My compassion for his family and close friends is strong. I hope they will draw some comfort from the many tributes to this talented and truly beloved man.

Now that I've read your profile, I realize you also understand more fully than most how the Parkinson's diagnosis may have affected Robin. I look forward to reading your hubs.

Regards, Jaye


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Yvonne Decelis 2 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts

Thank you for this hub! (I LOVED Robin and I am really going to miss him.)

I voted this up, plan to share it and also rated it useful, interesting, and awesome.


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FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

I simply loved this hub. I completely understand his reluctance to discuss his diagnosis with Michael J. Fox and his decision to keep it secret. There is often not enough done for people when a traumatic diagnosis is delivered, especially when an incurable illness threatens to rob them of the very thing that they base their identity on. Not everyone has sufficient coping resources or support systems. Again, this was a fine piece of work, Jaye. Voted up and more, and sharing.


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JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Penny, for reading this article and for your thoughtful comment. Robin Williams' death has focused attention on the condition of depression and the other health issues with which it is often combined. Awareness that severe depression is an illness able to take a life may help people recognize it in their loved ones or friends before it's too late.

Take care.....Jaye


Penny Odom 2 years ago

What a detail article about depression, Bi-polar and Parkinson's Disease. The average person really does not know enough about these health issues and the effects it has on a person without medication and support from family and friends. Thanks for the information written in a simply manner that it is easy for a person to understand.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks again, Lambservant - I took your prior words to heart and am currently working on a hub about how to recognize the signs of severe depression. As you know, anyone suffering from a serious depression is subject to suicidal ideation. Although few people get through life without experiencing some depression (from grief at the loss of a loved one, breakup of a relationship, or other traumatic life event), most survive it without seriously considering that form of escape.

If one's personal experience has only been with a depression that does not sap the very soul and which goes away within a reasonable amount of time, the idea that depression can take a life may be alien. We can help educate those who are not familiar with depression in its most dangerous form. Learning the signs of depression is the first step toward identifying it in a loved one or friend.

Blessings.....Jaye


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JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Travmaj - Thanks for reading and for your insightful comments. I believe you're right that he would not consciously have wanted to leave his family devastated by his death, but severe depression must produce a type of mind control that crowds out rational thought processes. If the depressed person could think clearly, that final action would not be taken. Survivors should hold on to that knowledge--that their loved one wasn't able to realize, at that point, the true pain that would be left behind.

Regards, Jaye


Lambservant 2 years ago

You know your stuff. Thanks for you compassion and informing people and paying tribute to a beautiful man.


travmaj profile image

travmaj 2 years ago from australia

A wonderful hub, so well researched and conveys much to allow us to ponder and come to terms with this tragedy.

Depression is difficult enough to cope with without the addition of his other mental health problems. To then be diagnosed with Parkinson's was perhaps unbearable. How much can a troubled man take? A man who was expected to make us smile, laugh, to be there for us, it's almost as if he belonged to his public.

The effects of suicide on family left behind are devastating - he wouldn't have wanted that. It wasn't his style. So sad this genius of a man we all relied found his own life unbearable.


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JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

CORRECTION to my last remark: I went back and checked the article about Robin Williams' video to the sick mom, and it was actually made and sent to her in March. Since she has terminal cancer and her family wants her remaining time to be without added stress, they decided not to let her know about his death.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Grand Old Lady, for your feedback. Robin's wife stated that he wasn't yet ready to have knowledge of his Parkinson's diagnosis made public. That alone is an indication he had not come to terms with a future with PD. Another commenter mentioned that he had a noticeable tremor in his hand or arm during a recent interview, an involuntary movement he couldn't control. I can't help but think his knowledge of the disease increased his depression.

A recent online item reports that, only days before his death, he sent a lovely personal video to cheer up a mother with serious cancer. Even in the midst of his own travails, he was still giving of himself to others--the mark of a caring heart.

Thanks for reading.....Jaye


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

Never knew that Robin Williams had Parkinson's. I agree with your analysis. It's so sad that he died. He brought happiness to so many many people.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

I’m so sorry about your friend, Lambservant. I can understand your anger that the signs of her impending suicide were not taken seriously. Any indication that an individual is contemplating self-destruction—no matter how remote it may seem—should be considered a red flag and is reason to intervene.

Sometimes a depressed person will feel unable to escape emotional pain or to bear it, but actually want someone to ‘take over’ and stop them from self-harm. In that type of situation, the signs are overt—a cry for help.

All too often, unfortunately, a person who has struggled with suicidal thoughts until the decision is finalized may appear content or even happy to people who observe him or her shortly before the end. This is the type of suicide that takes survivors by surprise and makes them wonder helplessly, “Why couldn’t I see it coming?”

So you are right that we should promote awareness of depression and the devastation it can wreak. The message? Everyone should learn what the signs of depression are and how to recognize them in loved ones or friends. They should not hesitate to ask directly if there have been any thoughts of suicide whatsoever, methods, or location. Those are tough questions, but they may bring honest responses that open the door to discussion and help for the sufferer.

Depression can make life seem intolerable. The severely depressed cannot fathom any possibility of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for them—ever again. When misery is a continual companion through sleepless nights and difficult days, there is a wish to escape it—not necessarily to be dead, but to simply be away from the desolation, and it takes over the mind.

One thing I believe strongly: when a depressed person makes that decision and follows through with it, it’s because he or she has fallen victim to irrational thoughts that are part and parcel of this serious illness. Depression lies to its desolate victim, in whom it has a captive audience.

Peace....Jaye


lambservant profile image

lambservant 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

This was an excellent hub. Making people more aware of the seriousness of depression is needed and you've done a good thing here. I have struggled with depression all my life as well. You nailed the point where you said how the depression deceives the mind when suicidal thoughts come. Been there myself.

For people to be more aware when they have a friend or loved one struggling with depression or a devastating life event or both, we might be able to offer support and direct them to help. I have written on mental health a little here on HP and another venue. The more we write and inform in anyway we can, people will become more understanding, less judgmental, and less afraid. I lost a friend to suicide just a few weeks ago. She was an old co-worker who was very open about her depression and most who knew her knew she had attempts in the past. She left obvious signs - giving away precious belongings, sending texts telling people that she loved them and appreciated all they'd done to be her friend/family member. I had not been around her in the last few years accept when I stopped by my former workplace to say hi. What I heard from her present co-workers were statements like: "We saw the signs but didn't really think she'd do it." Or, "I had a concern niggling me in the back of my mind but..." People need to learn how to recognize and respond to those signs and not be afraid of them. She was determined and perhaps nothing would have deterred her, but that people were worried and did nothing is something I am still grappling with, as in anger. but it won't bring her back so what I can do is what you are doing and be an advocate and informer. Voted up and across (except funny of course).


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

You’re right, Lambservant, that no one can know what was in the mind of Robin Williams on August 11, a date that ended in tragedy. My heart aches for his family and for his close friends who are trying to process what happened with disbelief as they grieve.

However, I know how devastating depression can be, more so for some people than others. Also, I’m aware of what Parkinson's can do to the human body and mind from observing my grandmother and a friend who had the disease, so I put the two together and wondered how he would have felt about facing a major health issue at an age he likely hadn’t expected to slow down, especially because the speed of his mind's reactions was so important to his comedy performances. It’s only my theory, of course, and there are many more making the rounds.

I did want to pay homage to such a talented and caring man, and, at the same time, call attention to the very real dangers of depression—especially if there are dual (addiction) or triple (Parkinson’s) diagnoses involved.

Thanks for reading and for your comments.

Regards, Jaye

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks so much, Audrey. Your daughter was very observant to notice that he trembled during an interview. I’ve read Michael J. Fox’s books and his account of how he felt early in his diagnosis before he came to terms with the disease. There’s a ‘why me?’ aspect that anyone who is faced with an incurable disease feels strongly at first. Most people go through that period and come out on the other side determined to cope, but not all are mentally equipped to do it. Years of depression before the diagnosis and while continuing into the reality of the disease must make a big difference.

I got upset when I read Gene Simmons’ horrid remarks and was glad, for the Williams’ family, that he apologized. His motivation for doing so was probably to salvage what’s left of his own career, but you’re right—many people don’t understand depression and what it can do to a person. If someone hasn’t either experienced it firsthand or observed it in someone close, he or she might wonder, ‘What did Robin Williams have to be so unhappy about?’ But those who understand know depression doesn’t need a reason. It just IS.

Thanks for sharing the hub, and blessings back to you….Jaye


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brakel2 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Jaye - What a super hub with so much information and photos. You captured everything about this adorable funny ,but sometimes sad, comedian who made a choice that made the world cry. I believe your theory and your reason for believing it. My daughter saw an interview where he trembled. He had such deep depression over all his issues. Someone called him a coward and later apologized - a media celebrity no less. People do not understand. But you understand so well. Thanks for sharing, and I will share. Blessings, Audrey


lambservant profile image

lambservant 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

For sure we are all devastated. It's hard to lose someone in death, but particularly suicide. There are thousands and thousands of articles on why he committed suicide, and idiots like Limbaugh and other pudits have exploited his death as a means to bash their political opponents etc. The bottom line is, not on knows what was going on in the mind of Robin when he ended his life and I think everyone should stop speculating and start honoring him and respecting his family by not doing so. What I like about your hub is that there is lots of info about mental illness and Robin's talent. This is a good time to educate people about mental illness, but not focus on why he did it because we don't know.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Paula - I'm so sorry that your brother-in-law suffered from Lou Gehrig's Disease. That is a truly frightening diagnosis. I hope the current research into healing the brain will lead to breakthrough cures for these diseases. The brain is remarkable, but so vulnerable to injury and disease.

Thanks again for your comments. Jaye


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fpherj48 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

In the Family of ALS-disease, another amongst the many is of course, Lou Gehrig's disease....and I had a personal experience with this debilitating disease as I witnessed the progression of it degeneration in my brother-in-law.

These neurological illnesses are as cruel as being handed down a death sentence, with much suffering in the meantime. The mind reels at the thought.

Once again...thank you.


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JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Radcliff - So many of us have experienced periods of depression--usually triggered by grief or relationship breakups, but it's difficult to even imagine the burden of trying to function throughout adulthood with severe depression, even if it's not continuous. Just knowing that it will probably return must color all of a sufferer's life.

I appreciate your kind words about my blepharospasm, but I had my 'pity party' about it decades ago and learned to live with it. I'm much more fortunate than some who have other movement disorders (dystonias) that make a normal life very difficult.

After being diagnosed and beginning ongoing treatment, I was able to continue in my career for another 21 years, and--though I'm slower these days for a variety of reasons--I can see to read books and my computer screen. That's a major blessing. (I may give up driving soon, however, which will affect my independence.)

Thanks for reading. Regards, Jaye


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL

This is a thoughtful and sensitive approach to the pain RW struggled with throughout his life. The brain is so complex, we can only guess what caused him to make his tragic decision. I had bouts of depression in the past, and I know (as many do) that when you're in that state of mind, you think there's no solution. Even though there's treatment you can receive and people who love and support you, you think there's no one out there who knows the real you. No one knows how terrible you are, and the world would be better off without you. Of course, it's all a lie. It's all an illusion.

I'm sorry to hear about your condition. That must be incredibly difficult. Thank you for sharing.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Suzette - I think the prospect of Parkinson's ravages added to his ongoing depression and struggle for sobriety were just too much for him. Only today I learned that depression is prevalent in newly-diagnosed PD patients and they're under-treated for it. Just imagine if you already have severe depression when you learn that you have PD! That would be more than many humans could bear. It saddens me greatly to think about what he went through after his diagnosis. I will have to let some time pass after his death to watch his movies and comedy performances again, but they are all we have left of his talent. It would be a shame not to enjoy them again, and I think Robin Williams would want his fans to remember him through his work, don't you?

Thanks for reading and your feedback. Regards, Jaye


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suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

What a lovely article about Robin Williams and a heartfelt tribute to him. We will never know what was going through his head at the moment of taking his life. All we can do is speculate. I, too, feel everything - the manic comedy, the depression, the self-medication (cocaine and alcohol), the Parkinson's disease, all lead to him taking his life. I think he wanted to be remembered as we are remembering him - the comic genius clown. Better to go now and on top of his game, than later a broken down former comic whose face is now frozen and his out of control trembling body. Looking forward to the ravages of Parkinson's disease was probably more than he could bare and talk about a depressing future. WOW! Your article is very thought-provoking and wisely written. Voted up+


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JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

John – Thank you for your kind words, the vote and sharing of this hub. Depression is more prevalent among the general population than most people realize, and suicide is far too often the terrible price it exacts. The tragic death of Robin Williams has been highly publicized since moments after its discovery, and the publicity is bringing awareness to millions of the very real dangers of depression. I fervently hope the current spotlight on depression will help others who suffer from its cruel grasp.

Regards, Jaye

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for your kind words, Paula, and thanks as well for the sharing. I know you are very familiar with mental health issues because I read your hub about talk therapy. Cognitive therapy has a good success rate in treating depression and bipolar disorder, especially when combined with the appropriate medication.

I read an article this morning (published August 15) describing a research study of people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, which followed them after a baseline evaluation for two years. The study verified that neuro-psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, and less impulse control are more common in these patients compared to the general population. What’s more, dopamine therapy does not decrease any of the neuro-psychiatric symptoms except fatigue, and there was also evidence that depression may be undertreated in early PD patients. This information comes to light too late to help Robin Williams, but it is profoundly to be hoped that doctors make use of it now when diagnosing and treating new PD patients.

My grandmother had Parkinson's, as did a dear friend, so I saw the harsh effects and progression of the disease up close. I admire Michael J. Fox for his own adjustment to PD, but especially for his research foundation that focuses on new treatments and a potential cure.

Take care….Jaye

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Randall – Thanks for your feedback. In the 21st century, it is appalling that mental health problems such as depression and bipolar disorder still carry a stigma that may prevent sufferers from seeking appropriate help. Mental health disorders should be seen as no different from cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses. In some cases, hospitalized treatment may be desperately needed, and if people choose not to accept that treatment because they feel ashamed, it is the fault of an unenlightened society. Let us hope that changes.

Thanks for reading. Regards, Jaye

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi, Bill – Thanks for reading and for your feedback. My own sharply-felt reaction to Robin Williams’ death has dual sources. One, I’ve long been in awe of the man’s talent, but also of his generosity on a very human level. His reputation for inconspicuously sharing both his personal resources and his time is the mark of a truly caring person, much more of a humanitarian than those wealthy personages who write large checks simply to gain media sound bites. The outpouring of grief from those who did personally know him—and he had many friends, both in the public eye and out of it—attests more to his humanity than his celebrity status. The quote that Dick Cavett shared showed Robin Williams as a living example of the sad clown who makes others happy in spite of his own despair. I found that very moving.

Added to that, I’m acutely aware of the pain his family and close friends are experiencing because I have firsthand knowledge of suicide’s aftermath, its effect on loved ones, and the second guessing that does no good but is impossible to avoid. This is why mental health awareness on a broad scale is so important to me and why I wrote this hub.

It makes me very sad to consider the distress and hopelessness Robin Williams must have felt to make such a tragic decision. For a man incredibly gifted who brought laughter and joy to millions, he was terribly alone at the end. That is the tragedy of depression.

Take care….Jaye


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billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I rarely get terribly upset when a celebrity dies. Just one of millions, and celebrity status holds little sway over me. And the same was true of Williams. Another sad soul swimming in a fish bowl.....deaths of this kind are always sad...always seemingly senseless.....yes, we lost a comic genius for sure.


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RandallJonas 2 years ago from Canada

This is well done, informative and will help people to understand just how bad a person can suffer mentally. Hopefully more people in time will not stigmatise those who suffer and find themselves isolated due to the shame they feel. There should be no shame at all. So many people suffer and hide and this is what happens, not just to well knowns but ordinary folks too. I am sorry he took his life. I hope he is not longer suffering. Thanks for this.


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fpherj48 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Jaye....A positively brilliant piece of work. You have blended the public and private persona of this highly gifted entertainer and sensitive human being and presented your readers with a compassionate yet quite sensible theory that allows your readers to more fully comprehend the evolution of and eventual demise of Robin Williams.

As his loved ones and millions of devoted fans begin the healing process....you kindly take us by the hand and help us to take each step with the grace and dignity deserving of this very extraordinary man.

Up+++ H+-tweeted-pinned-googled


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

What a wonderful hub Jaye. I think your theory is probably correct and that facing the future with Parkinson's Disease as well as Bi-polar disorder was just too much for him. You have researched this article thoroughly and it is an important guide for anyone facing depression or knowing anyones suffering it's debilitating effects. Voted up and shared.

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