Editorial: We can learn from Robin’s death

Few celebrity deaths have rocked the world with any more fierceness than the reported suicide of Robin Williams last week.

From mainstream, national newscasts, to social media, the shock, dismay and sadness expressed following the announcement of his death was the kind of outpouring usually reserved for a beloved world leader. (Princess Diana’s death comes to mind.)

Undoubtedly, the circumstances surrounding Robin Williams’ death had a lot to do with the reaction.

We can only hope that something good comes of it.

The death of Robin Williams has brought the issue of mental illness and depression to the forefront in an unprecedented fashion.

There is so much to learn about mental illness, and so many stigmas that must be pushed aside.

The number of posts on social media that included the words “I don’t understand” is a reflection of the illness.

There is so much that not only the layman, but the world’s top physicians don’t understand about mental illness and depression, that addressing the issue at times appears overwhelming.

One struggle is addressing the symptoms. Sometimes they are so well hidden by the victim that even his or her closest relatives do not suspect a thing (although  this was not the case with Williams).

But the biggest struggle is addressing the stigmas. As a society, we tend to shy away from the whole ordeal. We empathize with someone who has a broken leg, or broken arm, but what about those with a broken brain?

Sadly, far too often, we make fun of them.

“He’s crazy.”

“Don’t make eye contact.”

“Nutbar.”

Sound familiar? Most of us have said it, or thought it, about someone suffering a mental illness.

Before we can  seriously start addressing the illness, we must start taking it seriously.

Robin Williams was not the first celebrity to take his own life, and unfortunately, he won’t be the last. But if the pain expressed by his millions of fans leads us to better funding, studying and ultimately understanding mental illness, then his death will not have been in vain.

The world turned a little less funny on August 11, 2014.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams.

 

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