What we can learn from Robin Williams | Editorial

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

Robin Williams not only said those words but he lived them to the fullest. His madness made him one of the most brilliant comedians of the last century. Devastatingly, that spark went out when he took his own life on Aug. 11.

The loss of this actor, comedian, philanthropist, husband and father has been felt by those around the world. The fact that most of us never met him is irrelevant. The power of his talent reached through the airwaves and into our hearts.

Williams, 63, had struggled with depression and cocaine and alcohol addiction for most of his life. At the time of his death, he was also contending with the beginning stages of Parkinson’s.

His suicide has prompted conversations about mental health on news sites across the country.

Psychologist and suicide survivor Katie Hurley wrote a column on Huffington Post entitled “There’s Nothing Selfish About Suicide” in response to Williams’ death.

She wrote, “People everywhere are left feeling helpless and confused. How could someone who appeared so happy in actuality be so very depressed? The truth is that many, many people face the very same struggle each and every day. Some will commit suicide. Some will attempt. And some will hang on for dear life. Most won’t be able to ask for the help that they need to overcome their mental illness. You can help.”

According to Hurley, 50 to 75 percent of people who attempt suicide will tell someone about their intention.

“Listen when people talk. Make eye contact. Convey empathy. And for the love of people everywhere, put down that ridiculous not-so-SmartPhone and be human,” she wrote.

If you know of someone who is struggling with depression, make an effort to be there for that person. Be persistent. Check in. Offer a patient ear and resources to help.

The National Suicide Prevention Line is 1-800-273-TALK. Those who call are connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center nearby. These hotlines are open 24/7.

Pay attention to those you love. As Robin Williams so tragically illustrated, even those who seem joyful from the outside can be facing an insurmountable battle on the inside.

Remembering Robin Williams

The Sea View Theatre is paying tribute to a man whose roles brought so much to the screen and to our lives.   On Sat. Aug. 23 at 8 p.m., the theatre will present a special screening of “Dead Poets Society,” plus a tribute mash-up reel of some of Robin’s finest comic and theatrical moments.  The film  is a 1989 drama in which he was Oscar-nominated for his portrayal of an inspirational teacher. It is rated PG.