“It’s not your fault.”
These are the words Robin Williams says over and over to Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. “It’s not your fault.”
And those are the words I wish I could speak to him now. It’s not his fault.
There has been an outpouring of sympathy and grief over the loss of Robin Williams, as there absolutely should be. He was a hell of an actor and a comedian. He made us laugh until it hurt as Mrs. Doubtfire, he made our childhood with classics like Flubber and Jumanji, he made us ache and cheer in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society, and he made us cringe in One Hour Photo.
Everyone’s commenting on this. His legend, his legacy, his fine talent. And we should all celebrate that — we should celebrate that forever. I don’t know if we will ever see such versatile talent like that in our lifetime again. I think I’m going to go watch Aladdin when I’m done writing this.
But there’s one thing we’re not talking about — how he went. Why is no one talking about his suicide? We lost him, and that is so incredibly sad. But why did we lose him? It wasn’t to cancer or a car crash. Nor was it to heart disease either. We lost him to suicide. We lost him to depression — a disorder that we have multiple cures and solutions for. So again, I’ll ask, why did we lose him?
The answer is not simple. According to CNN, he was battling “severe depression.” Maybe his meds weren’t working. Maybe he wasn’t on meds. Maybe he wasn’t on the right meds. Maybe his meds weren’t enough.
So many people are speculating, what was going wrong in his life? Why was he sad enough to kill himself? But these are the wrong questions to ask.
Robin Williams was an incredibly successful man, with a loving wife and three children. Ostensibly, he had it all. And I know what it feels like to seemingly have everything but to feel like nothing. I know how he must have felt, so empty and lonely. I know that point. I was there before. I wish I could have been there with him (as I’m sure we all do) to tell him that it gets better. To tell him how dearly he would be missed. It likely would not have made a difference — but I still wish I could have been there.
I’m not a doctor — I don’t know all the answers to depression. I don’t know if this could have been prevented. But I do know this: in 2011, an American died of suicide every 13.3 minutes. I know that it is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. I know that many of these people were unmedicated and even undiagnosed. And I know that many of these deaths are preventable.
And I also know that we don’t take it as seriously as we should. I know the subject is taboo. That people with depression are told to simply “cheer up!” I know that people with mental illness are encouraged to try other things before consulting a psychiatrist — to “change your diet!” “change your mind, change your life!” I know that we’re scared to talk about it. I know that now, people are not talking about how tragically preventable Robin William’s death was Why are we so scared to talk about it?
How many acting legends, how many artists, how many singers, mothers, daughters and humans do we have to lose before we start taking mental illness seriously?
Today we lost “an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang, Peter Pan, and everything in between,” what else must we lose before we take action? Before we smash the taboo? Before we take it seriously?
Robin, “it’s not your fault.”