Robin Williams’ Death Reminds Me That There’s Still Work To Be Done When It Comes To Depression
I was introduced to Robin Williams the way most people in my age group were — through the Disney animated movie Aladdin. Of course, over time I became familiar with other parts of his filmography. As a kid, I remembered wanting to meet him, because he seemed like the happiest guy on earth.
We know now that wasn’t the case.
When I heard the news of his death, I felt as if the wind was knocked out of me. This wasn’t like the other celebrity deaths in the news. It hit me because it could’ve easily been me.
You see, I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety since my teens. It took years to get diagnosed, but had it not, I can’t guarantee I’d be here writing this.
My heart hurts with Williams’ death because I understand all too well the overflowing emotions of heartache, despair, and anxiety and the lengths he probably went through to hide it.
I hid it not because I chose to, but because I didn’t know how to express it. I still struggle with that now.
My boyfriend just texted me to ask if I was okay since hearing the news. Though he knows about my depression and he’s very understanding, I feel like I can’t talk about it because you’re not supposed to talk about depression.
I don’t tell my coworkers because I’m afraid I’ll be seen as incapable. I don’t tell some members of my extended family because it’s so much more than “being sad.” Some of my friends know, but even then, I feel as though they don’t really understand because I don’t “look” depressed.
There have been efforts in the last few years pushing to erase the stigma of mental illness. I applaud those efforts, but I feel that we have a long way to go, not only in educating the public but also getting past self-imposed barriers of silence among those who suffer from depression and mental illness.
For people like me, having the suicide hotline on speed-dial won’t help. I honestly don’t know what will. Williams’ death will be in the news cycle for a few days, but it will eventually be a memory. After every prolific suicide, we hope that something will change in the community, and there may be a few articles about the warning signs of depression. It can’t end there. Something has to change.
What I encourage people to do is to talk to someone with depression. Don’t give cookie-cutter advice of “it’ll get better.” You know, don’t even give advice. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us.