Robin Williams: Could Deaths Like His Be Prevented?

Robin Williams as Mork, sitting in a chair on his head

Scanning through Facebook today, I’m seeing an over abundance of posts honoring Robin Williams. We tend to see these when people die, and it’s nice for the friends and relatives still living to see how many people their recently departed loved one had touched, but at the same time, I have to wonder if he would’ve off’d himself if all these people had been there for him when he was going through such difficult times?

Depression is such a common thing, and I’m willing to bet we all know somebody who could relate to how Williams felt. But what are we doing about them now? Why didn’t anybody step up and help out Robin when he was going through all that turmoil? Why was he alone? Why was he alone long enough to decide to end it all?

A friend mentioned on his Facebook timeline that it was a shock to him, but to me, it wasn’t. Robin Williams was always wired and bouncing off the walls like somebody with ADD, ADHD, on speed and a bucket load of espresso shots. No mentally, spiritually, or emotionally-well person can be like that all the time. But I’m willing to bet that only a small handful of people even knew the personal, quiet side of him.

I find it interesting also that just the other day, a friend asked on Facebook if anybody else is feeling lonely, or if it’s just him. I jumped on that immediately and insisted (in personal messages) talking whenever he (and others who commented feeling the same) needed to talk, even after they all insisted that they’re not lonely right now. So it’s not just something that Robin Williams was dealing with, but something that many are also dealing with lately. If anything, I think Williams’ death should be recognized as a cry out from everybody who’s feeling lonely and hopeless, and a need for the rest of us to be more alert and ready to respond when others express the same.

Maybe I’m being naive. I mean, I understand that depression is an illness, but I’m also bothered when I see people getting up and moving after something bad happens, or who remain idle or non-existent before it all goes down. It’s like I want to ask such people leaving such comments, “This is all great, but where were you when he was alive, and he needed such encouragement?” or “I’m sure Robin would’ve like to know how much you impacted him, but now’s a little too late to tell him.”

Update: A couple days after Robin Williams died, a close friend of mine hung himself. Depression, Bi-Polar, not taking medication for either, and alcohol may have had a big part in it, but the last we’d talked, which was about 1-2 weeks previous, his comments included feeling alone and abandoned by his family members, and not knowing where else to turn for help. He was already in a bad situation before this, but then in his getting out of such a situation, he made other bad decisions, then suddenly, he was stuck with responsibilities that were over his head, family refusing to help, and strong feelings of hopelessness. Sure, during the funeral, everybody talked of how much he meant to them, now, but when he was alive, they had all turned their backs to him, or were nowhere to be found. And just before the funeral, I was told that he had attempted suicide a couple days before! Why wasn’t he on suicide watch? Why was nobody there for him then? Where were all these people who packed in the church, crying during his funeral, when he was alive?

So looking now at all this, I need to ask you, how can we help people, loved ones and friends, who are feeling such loneliness and hopelessness? What more can (or should) we do? Because talking about all the greatness of these people after they’ve committed suicide is nice for those left behind, but it’s nowhere near being in time to help those who felt the need to check out early.

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