As we remember and celebrate the life and accomplishments of Robin Williams, it is important to take a few things away from his tragic death.
Suicide. Depression. When did these words become so taboo that those being crushed under the weight of such thoughts felt forced to deny them? To be so ashamed of their illness that they could not reach out for help?
In reality, those who ignore their cries or expect them to “be strong” are the ones who should be ashamed for creating a culture where it is expected of everyone to wear their socially accepted mask in public and face their demons alone—behind closed doors.
We must re-examine our expectations of everyone we interact with on a daily basis. Do you want to make a difference in this world? Stop judging people based on their appearance, sexual preferences, past addictions and life circumstances. Stop making them feel weak when they ask for help.
Sit down and LISTEN to them. Sometimes, all someone needs is for another human being to see their struggle without sitting in judgment.
A lot of celebrities and news outlets are expressing that they are “heartbroken” in the wake of this announcement. Although they have every right to feel this emotion, we must remember that Mr. Williams, and the millions of people suffering from depression around the world, are often so well acquainted with that feeling that it does not even shock them anymore. In fact, it lives behind every smile, every laugh and every mask they wear.
If you take anything away from the death of Robin Williams, perhaps it should be that we are all facing struggles—even those who appear to have everything. Remember that we are all human, and sometimes we all need a helping hand. Be a friend.
Finally, if you are battling depression, the most courageous thing you can do is tell someone. There is nothing shameful about reaching out for help. If you are uncomfortable speaking with someone you know, I encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).