My first recollection of the zany comedy of Robin Williams goes all the way back to his guest appearance as Mork on “Happy Days.” Over the years, I followed him mainly through television and then through his movies. I have to admit, I rarely missed his late night appearances on Jay Leno because I knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride.
He did touch millions of lives through his art, his kindness, and the multitude of characters he played throughout his career. There are thousands of tributes to him on the internet. As a result, many bloggers are talking about things individuals can do if they are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
This is where I want to jump in.
As a therapist with over 35 years of experience, I was thrown off guard when I heard the news of Robin Williams death. I began thinking about this three part series as a result of this incident and have thought long about what to say.
In following several blogs and conversations, I have only heard one commentary about some other possible issues that may have been going on William’s life. In addition to the impact of drug and alcohol abuse, which he’d been successfully treated for, and based on reports, he had maintained his sobriety, Williams had also had open heart surgery.
Dr. Drew Penski, in responding to the news of Williams death, reminded listeners that Williams had struggled with depression as well as the addiction issues. Penski reminded viewers that Williams had also undergone major heart surgery a few years ago. Dr. Drew spent several minutes talking about the psychological risks of having your chest opened up. He stated that for many people, this procedure, though life-saving can increase the chances of major depression. If someone is already “at risk” this surgery can make them even more prone to depression.
Williams had also been diagnosed with the Parkinson’s. This could have been another another factor that could have pushed him over the edge.
The loss of any life to suicide is tragic. Understanding depression, developing tools to help hurting people, and being present with friends in their tough times can go along way in helping people have hope and a future
My purpose in this three-part series is to look at what you and I can do for ourselves and for others who might be depressed or even suicidal.
I will close with a couple of important thoughts from two writer’s
Andrea Lennon has some thoughtful reflections that I wanted to share:
- Everyone has a struggle.
- Our words matter. As wise man once said, when you go into a situation that is full of grief and pain, pray twice and speak once.
Cliff Williams, author of a thoughtful article, “When Christians Contemplate Suicide”, closes with a powerful reminder.
Philo of Alexandra wrote that we should always “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Everyone we meet is, indeed, fighting battles, many of the same battles, in fact, that suicidal people fight—difficult circumstances, mood swings, a sense of unworthiness, dejection. Some of the people we meet, including some of the people we know well, are fighting such big battles that they want to give up entirely. Our kindness can help them fight these battles. It can encourage them and strengthen them. It can save their lives.
My next blogs will focus on identifying depression, as well as practical tips you can use to push back depression.
Depression can be treated and symptoms managed. The National Suicide Hotline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
John is Licensed Counselor, Speaker, and Author. His book, Get a Grip on Depression, is a faith-friendly guide to understanding depression. You may purchase this resource on Amazon/Kindle. To purchase an autographed copy directly from John, click here