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Losing a Legend - Robin Williams and the Effects of Depression

Updated on October 16, 2016

Williams at the Premier of Happy Feet Two

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Robin Williams, Comedian and Actor

On August 11, 2014, actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead in his home in Marin County, California.

The police department were called to the scene after his publicist called in a report, stating that Williams had hung himself. Later on that day the Marin County Sheriff's Office released a statement to the public that Williams had died as a result of asphyxiation.

Robin Williams was 63 years old when he died.

Throughout his life, Williams was very open about his struggles with mental health and addiction. He left behind two children, a daughter named Zelda and a son named Cody.

Robin Williams made a name for himself as an actor, a stand-up comic, a film producer and a screenwriter.

In 1978, Williams made his acting debut as the quirky alien on the television show 'Mork and Mindy''. That show skyrocketed Williams into the spotlight, leading him to roles in hit films such as "Patch Adams", "Good Will Hunting", "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Dead Poets Society" and "Jumanji", just to name a few.

Williams received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, twoScreen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards. On top of that, Williams also received three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Throughout his career, Robin Williams did a number of stand-up comedy tours. His last tour was in 2008, titled 'Weapons of Self Destruction'.

Not only did Robin Williams enjoy the stage as a comic, but he also enjoyed the stage as a live actor, performing on Broadway in his own one-man show, titled Robin Williams: Live on Broadway.

Robin Williams was a member of the Episcopalian church, and referred to it as "Catholic Lite—same rituals, half the guilt."

Lack of Sunlight Can Lead to Depression

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What was your favorite Robin Williams movie?

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Robin Williams' Struggle with Mental Illness

Robin Williams was always very open about the fact that he struggled with mental illness. Williams did countless interviews and shows were he focused on the fact that he was crazy.

Medically, Robin Williams was diagnosed as having depression, bi-polar disorder and generalized anxiety diorder.

In the 1970s and the 1980s Williams struggled back and forth with a vicious cocaine addiction. He became close friends with fellow comic and actor Jim Belushe during this time, who also struggled with drug addiction.

When Belushi died in 1982 after overdosing on drugs, Robin Williams made the decision to check himself into a rehab facility to help him with his addiction to drugs and alcohol.

After being released from rehab, Robin Williams remained sober for twenty years, but returned to alcohol in 2003. After relapsing, Williams struggled to regain his sobriety, but never returned to drugs.

In 2006, Williams decided to try rehab one more time, but he wasn't successful in staying sober after being released.

Ultimately, his mind got the worst of him, and he ended up taking his own life - robbing the world of a terrific man.

Even the president made a public statement after hearing about the death of Robin Williams, saying:

"an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets."

After his death, Williams' wife had this to say: "I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken."

Wise Quotes from Robin Williams

"If women ran the world we wouldn't have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days."

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."

"Im sorry, if you were right, I would agree with you."

"No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."

"In America they really do mythologise people when they die."

"Reality is just a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs."

"The idea of having a steady job sounds appealing."

"People say satire is dead. It's not dead; it's alive and living in the White House."

"Canada is like a loft apartment over a really great party."

The Reality of Depression - Facing the Facts

Depression effects millions of Americans, both celebrities and non-celebrities. No one is immune from mental illness. At some point in their life, one in four people will struggle with bouts of depression.

Recent studies estimate that the number of people in America struggling with depression is as high as 20 million, but it is hard to get a good estimate because so many people with depression are never diagnosed.

Those with depression typically have co-occuring mental health issues. Over 30% of people diagnosed with depression wind up struggling with substance abuse issues.

Depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness, however an estimated 80% of people with depression never receive treatment.

In 2009, the last year for which statistics are available, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. That year, there were nearly 37,000 suicides, and 1 million people attempted suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Robin WIlliams After Receiving an Oscar for His Role in Good Will Hunting

When I Was a Teenager I Thought That Death Was My Only Option

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Why Robin Williams' Death Hit Me So Hard

When I heard that Robin Williams died, I couldn't watch the news. I couldn't open an article online regarding his death. I was so upset over the passing of a man I never knew.

Growing up I loved every movie Wiliams was in, from Patch Adams to Flubber. He was funny, he was quirky and he was different. I related to him.

When I saw him on television, I noticed a smile on his face, but an emptiness behind his eyes that I knew all too well. To me it seemed like he used his humor to cover up for his heartache. Boy did that sound familiar.

I have struggled for most of my life with depression and mental illness. As far back as I can recall I never felt like I fit in and this painful sadness weighed me down constantly. I couldn't ever escape my own mind, as hard as I may have tried.

When I was sixteen years old I started cutting myself, and when I was seventeen the suicide attempts started. I just couldn't stomach the idea of living one more day.

I hated life, I hated myself, and I couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Lucky for me I had a family who wanted me to live more than I wanted to live. A family who loved me when I could not love myself.

I thank God that I was never successful in my many attempts to take my own life, but I certainly remember the place I was in mentally when I thought that was the only choice that I had.

Depression is Not a Choice, Depression is a Disease

Working to End the Stigma of Mental Illness

Never before have I seen such a large, yet universal response to the loss of a celebrity.

My Facebook filled up with shocked statuses, all saddened, even heartbroken by the news. Everyone loved Robin Williams, except Robin Williams.

He was funny, he was smart, he was charismatic, but he was sad, oh was he sad. Williams was a man who, much like myself, used his humor to mask his pain. Although I never knew him, I could relate to him on many levels.

I have a strong feeling that much like I do, he preferred to put smiles on the faces of others, knowing all too well that it would take a miracle to make him smile.

If anything comes from the passing of such a great man, I hope that it is awareness to the fact that depression is not something we choose, nor does it discriminate.

Mental illness effects the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the people in the spotlight and the people who aren't.

For too long, mental illness has been viewed in a negative light. It has been viewed as a "bad" thing, different from all other illnesses. I am here to tell you that it isn't.

No one chooses to have a mental illness, just like no one chooses to have cancer. We need to stop stigmatizing mental health so that those struggling will no longer feel like they (we) are defects in society.

We need to open our eyes and raise awareness about mental health, or tragedies like this will not stop.

Don't be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution and stop stigmatizing mental illness.

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    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Goodbye Mr Williams, or is that Mrs Doubtfire?

      Loved him in Dead Poets Society and Fisher King, was amazed by him when he stood up to do cameos on Sesame Street I think it was, envied him in Good Morning Vietnam and thought he did a good job with Flubber. As a stand up he could be acidic and foul mouthed but always a good laugh guaranteed.

      I was aware of his inner struggles - like a thief in the night that dark shadow. Leaves us all empty but life gives surprising refills,unexpectedly.

      Keep up the good work Kathleen.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thank you very much ann, glad you enjoyed my hub

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I liked Good Morning Vietnam; it was refreshingly different. He was so versatile, a brilliant comedian as well as a consummate actor. What a shame he didn't realise what a wonderful person he was.

      You explain the feelings and thoughts behind this illness so well. No one can know unless they've been there I suppose but we can try to understand and realise that it's not that person's fault.

      Great hub. Ann

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      very sad to see him go, praying for his soul to rest in peace

    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 3 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      My favorite Robin Williams film is Fern Gully The Last Rain Forest. He did the voice of the bat who had become loony from being experimented on by HUMANS. It is an environmentalist's animated film and very Australian. I suppose also very American because it happily had Robin Williams in it. My second choice would be Patch Williams. He gave us good times and made us think with movies such as Good Morning Vietnam and The bird Cage. R.I.P. Robin Williams.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 3 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Robin Williams, you'll surely be missed. I like all the movies I've watched featuring his voice or himself.

      As an actor, there's no question that he's a legend. But in drugs and depression, it will really enslave someone, like him and even slain his own life.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      MsDora coming from you that is a very big compliment and put a huge smile on my face, thank you so much for reading and commenting, it is always nice to hear from those that I look up to on this site.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      I loved Robin Williams especially as Patch Adams. No other tribute to him will touch me like yours have. I am happy for you that have been able to manage your depression to the point of being so courageous and inspirational as you share your experience. The very best to you going forward.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      In a way 'Good Morning Vietnam' reminds me of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' - what do you think?

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Great film alancaster!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      The film he made that left a bigger impression on me was his manic DJ in 'Good Morning Vietnam', a fight between an individualist and 'the system'.

      Of course it was the system that won.

      Most of us 'creative types' have it in us somewhere - some more than others. Robin Williams had the lion's share. The 'B' side of 'gifted' is 'cursed'.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thank you so much :) Your comments always mean the world to me!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Kathleen, this is the best article I've read so far on Robin Williams' death. Your added insight and confession bring a much-needed perspective to the issue of depression and suicide. I never noticed the empty look in his eyes, but I had no clue he suffered from depression, either.

      Wonderful post, Kathleen. I'm so glad you have a family who was able to help you through your dark days. If not for them I wouldn't have met a wonder writer named Kathleen Odenthal.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Kathleen.....I can think of few actors with such diverse and amazing talent. Every single performance was a perfect gift to his audience. I am truly saddened by his death. That he reached the profound depths of darkness, to take his precious life, is unbearable. My heart breaks in pieces for his children especially.

      As always young lady....your work is simply superb......Up+++pinned & tweeted

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Good Morning Vietnam

      Well done article. I for one am glad you are here with us.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Beautiful tribute hub Kathleen. I was shocked and saddened when I saw R.I.P. Robin Williams posted on Facebook. I loved every movie I saw him in, especially Patch Adams, but even others not listed like "Popeye" and "Millennium Man". He was so funny and quick witted, but so often 'real life' for comedians isn't funny. His eyes always looked sad even as he rattled off witty and funny comments. Sorry to hear of your own stuggles too. My wife also suffers from depression and anxiety disorders so I know what it is like to live with these things. Voted up.

    • profile image

      Tshediso1 3 years ago

      I still can't believe my favourite comedian passed away,i can't stop being sad and my girlfriend says am weird

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      I totally understand. That face just always cried out "im smiling but im miserable"

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      Yeah, I didn't really like him as an actor or a comedian. I always could see the sadness in him and instead of finding him funny I felt sad for him.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Really? none of his movies?! I think many of us are very upset about this loss

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      I am very sad at the death of Robin Williams even though I never liked any of his movies, I still feel a great deal of sorrow over his death.