Robin Williams lived a life that brought laughter and joy to millions through his comedy and acting.
He died at his home from suicide on Monday, August 11, 2014, at the age 63. He battled a brain disease that included severe depression. Even with treatment, support from loved ones, and a successful career, mental illness still can be a deadly disease, especially when paired with addiction to drugs and alcohol.
I remember when I first learned that Robin Williams had a mental illness and I was encouraged by his openness. I loved his work in Aladdin, Happy Feet, Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, and his role as Mork from Mork and Mindy. My favorite work of his was stand-up comedy.
He had a brilliant brain. And he had a brain with a disease. He richly blessed us with his life.
May all of us find ways today to reach out and offer hope to one another. We need each other in order to live. No one needs to suffer alone.
There is hope for people who are suicidal. Depression can be treated and symptoms managed. The National Suicide Hotline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 90% of the time the primary cause of suicide is an untreated or under-treated mood disorder.
Here are five things we can do to prevent suicide:
1. Break the silence about mental illness. Tell someone you trust if you are feeling depressed and get help.
2. Help spread the word about mental health support resources in your community. If there aren’t any, then get to work and look into starting a support group. Learn mental health first aid.
3. Organize mental health educational events at your school, house of worship, workplace and neighborhood. Become a mental health care advocate.
4. Decrease the stigma and shame of mental illness by celebrating the many gifts of people with brain diseases. Acknowledge that people with mental illness are not defined by their illness.
5. Treat everyone with kindness. We all are fighting battles. Mental Illness is an invisible battle. Be gentle with yourself and others.
Suicide in particular causes some to pause and wonder about religious teachings that claim that death by suicide is an unforgiveable sin. Just as our scientific understanding of evolution influences the way we interpret the sacred story of creation, now our understandings of the human brain must change the way we interpret suicide.
It is intolerable for me to believe in a God that would punish a person who already suffered unbearable pain because of a brain disease. Instead, I believe in a God of compassion who weeps with those who weep, and mourns with those who mourn. No longer can we say that people who commit suicide go to hell. It is inhumane and defames God’s loving nature.
Now is the time to respond with love.