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Losing a Legend - Robin Williams and the Effects of Depression
Williams at the Premier of Happy Feet Two
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
What was your favorite Robin Williams movie?
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.
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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.