Depression Didn’t Kill Robin Williams; Robin Williams Did

s_bukley / (Shutterstock.com)
s_bukley / (Shutterstock.com)

Last week, former teen heartthrob Henry Rollins blasted a certain dead celebrity (let’s just say it wasn’t Lauren Bacall) in the LA Weekly. The reason was that said celebrity had hanged himself.

"I simply cannot understand how any parent could kill themselves," the former Black Flag and Rollins Band singer writes.

"How in the hell could you possibly do that to your children?"

I know, I know. It is an ugly subject. For some of us, it can be very hard to talk about. The violent hatred that Rollins must have against those who break their own necks and blast their brains out may be hard to stomach, but it may be a subject worth talking about.

Before you judge me too harshly, believe me that I think suicide is a perfectly healthy way of getting dead. But I have to consider my own existence at the same time. I mean, hey, if certain members of my family had their way, they wouldn’t be alive to make sure that I was born.

Then again, that’s not a fireproof argument. Lots of things could’ve happened to cancel out my existence. It doesn’t have to be as explicit as suicide.

Death is death, after all. But with Rollins recently having been blasted for his article, articles such as these have been popping up. The article makes the case that Robin Williams wasn’t responsible for his own death.

"It can be so hard to understand for the mentally healthy," the article states early on. (Who are these “mentally healthy”? I’ve never met them.) "Robin Williams did not kill himself.  His disease, whatever it was, killed him."

Well, that’s a tremendous relief. I am terribly satisfied to learn that I, like Mr. Williams, am not to be held accountable for my failures, only my successes.

There’s a tremendous double standard here, as there is in the case of Rollins. If the AV Club, the less intelligent counterpart to The Onion, were to be truly fair in voicing their disapproval of disapproval of suicide, as they did in their articulately titled article, they’d be equally vocal against the shameful policies of religious types who would have these poor souls sent to hell. They’re not, though.

And if Robin Williams deserves to be lauded for his merits, why shouldn’t he be blamed for his faults? If an abstract concept such as "depression" gets credit for slipping a belt around Robin Williams’s neck, then who gets credit for all of his jokes, his performances, his net worth—Robin Williams or "depression?"

Depression isn’t a "just as bad as any physical illness," whatever the idiot children of Tumblr would have you believe. When you get AIDS, chances are that you’re going to get depressed. But when you get depressed, does that mean that you’re going to get AIDS?

I’ve known people with AIDS. I’ve known people with cancer. I know people who’ve had cirrhosis of the liver. Having lived with depression, I’d choose it over any of those three every time.

When regrettable behavior such as hanging oneself is practiced, it’s easy to blame it on an individual’s mental state, pretend that individuals are separate from their behavior, blame it on "depression," and be done with it. The hard part is accepting that such behavior is just as much part of the person as any of the positive things about them.

If merits are contained in someone’s personality, so are their detriments. You can’t pick and choose these things. If I go out in the street and piss on a homeless man, then go pick up my high-school diploma, I can’t say that I’m only responsible for one of these acts. Either I am responsible for both of them, or human beings are clockwork gears playing out a game of chess on the particle level, with conscious decision-making an illusion to tide us over. It’s your choice. TC mark

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