An actor, a comic, an icon, and a million other things is what Robin Williams was to all of us who had the pleasure of being moved by talent and abilities. What Robin also was, that some forget, is human. Depression can affect anyone; the wealthy, the famous, the average taxpaying citizen, a friend, a family member, and how people who struggle with depression cope, can look very different.
Scrolling up and down timelines in the social media world and flipping pages of newspapers are very mixed but somber comments: "why would anyone do this to themselves," "how could someone so happy and full of life take their own," "I'm shocked!" and an overall "you will be missed #RIPRobin."
Though all of the above may be a reality for some, what was missing for me in the conversation is the "what now" empathy, not sympathy- part of it all. If Robin would have passed as a result of an overdose, a car accident, a senseless act of violence involving a firearm, the tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook updates and Pins would have all ranted about substance abuse awareness, traffic laws and even gun control policy, but he didn't. Due to the stigmas surrounding mental health, folks will mourn and move on remembering Robin for his comedic performances and while that's okay, by not addressing suicide as a real issue for our communities, we will continue to feed into the stigma that our mental health and hygiene can take a back seat on our agendas.
Suicide is not about wanting to die, or a coward's way out, as some egregious social media posts attempt to portray about those who suffer and decide to end their lives. It's about the light at the end of the tunnel dimming, and hope for a better tomorrow fading. It also can cause a ripple effect and touch the lives of others as it is a human experience that is taboo in our culture. It is important to continue the conversation, seek supports/help if needed and raise awareness for this "silent epidemic" as Tony Dokoupil (a senior writer for NBC News) puts it.
Lifenet (24 hours a day/7 days a week -- call anytime!)
1-800-LIFENET (1-800-543-3638) is a free, confidential help line for New York City residents.
You can call 24 hours per day/7 days per week. The hotline's staff of trained mental health professionals help callers find mental health and substance abuse services.
1-877-AYUDESE (1-877-298-3373) (in Espanõl)
1-877-990-8585 for Korean and Chinese callers (Mandarin and Cantonese dialects)
All other languages: 1-800-LIFENET (1-800-543-3638)
1-212-982-5284 (TTY for hearing impaired)
National Prevention Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)