On August 11th, 2014, Robin Williams was found dead by the Marin County Sheriff’s Department. Pre-autopsy, the cause of death is suspected to be suicide by way of asphyxiation.
I don’t consider myself a big fan of things or people usually. I like a few specific games and shows and stars, but I never cared to be Super Fan #1 of anything. I usually like my certain things and kind of keep to myself about it. It just happens to be my personal preference. I equate how I feel about Robin Williams as I do to Fred Rogers. I saw them as favorite uncles. Of course, there’s a bit of familiarity that I’m attributing to them, but it works in my head. I didn’t see them very frequently, but when I did, I was always happy to see them and they always made me smile. I watched Mork & Mindy in syndication as much as I could and have seen a good amount of Robin Williams movies (who in middle America hasn’t really?) and I was in high school when Dead Poets’ Society came out, so like every drama nerd at the time, that was my movie. OH, CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN. I even liked Popeye (hey, I didn’t say it was good, just that I liked it). When I was notified by Facebookland, which is pretty much where you see news first now, about his suspected suicide, I felt like someone slapped me in the face. I can’t imagine what he was going through, but I know a lot of comedians cover up great pain with comedy.
The difference between how I feel about this and how I felt about Mr. Rogers dying is that when I heard Mr. Rogers died, I just felt sadness. Right now, I’m definitely sad. I’m also very, very angry. This brings up very personal feelings about the way we deal with mental health in this country for me and I feel like I need to get it out. Anyone reading this who knows me well enough, knows I have strong feelings about mental health and illness. I don’t feel like Robin was mentally ill, but it goes without saying that he obviously needed help. I’ve had many a conversation with people who are going through a difficult time and I’ve recommended maybe going to a therapist. I would easily say 75% of them balked at the idea, or outright dismissed it. In this day and age, I’m actually astounded that people still think the best way to deal with depression, anxiety, stress, misplaced anger or just out and out head problems are to ‘get over it.’ I’m not saying this of the people I know as a whole. I have a good amount of friends in therapy or who have seen one and had it help them a lot, but there’s still so much shame surrounding getting help with your problems or a general mistrust of another person to show vulnerability. It breaks my heart to think of the pain Robin Williams was in to have him think he had no other choice. It breaks my heart to think anyone would think that. The thing that makes me mad is the thought that anyone would be ashamed to reach out and ask for help or that they wouldn’t get the help they needed. And as much as I know he was in pain, I’m angry at him for leaving behind the people who loved him (as in the world). I know he was in pain, but that IS where you have to do something about it. When you leave other people behind to deal with the grief over something you’ve done. That’s where it’s time to get serious. Get help. Talk to someone. Even if you think you have it under wraps, just think of it as quality control. It creeps up on you. And there’s no shame in admitting that you’re just plain human.