Mental Health Stigma and Robin Williams

Mental Health Stigma and Robin Williams

Robin Williams has provided us with many laughs throughout the years. He was always one of those people that had a bright spirit about him. He was an actor, an incredible one at that. Not only did he embrace every character he played, but he had the public believe that he would not have a care in the world.

Unfortunately, Robin Williams has been pronounced dead at the age of 63. When the world heard the news, millions of people felt a deep chill. He was someone that touched the human spirit, bringing joy to others.

Although he made millions happy, he apparently struggled with “severe depression,” as told by his publicist. At this point in time, they’re treating his death as a suicide due to asphyxia. Suicide? Robin Williams? It doesn’t seem to fit. That is the problem with our current society and mental health. There is this overwhelming stigma attached to mental health, including addiction. People are not aware until it’s too late. 

Mental health is a serious concern and needs to be seen in a different light. It is sad that someone as touching and memorable as Robin Williams had to pass away for people to discuss the tragic outcome of mental health related suicide. The fact is, mental health is extremely common. There are an estimated 350 million people around the world who are affected by depression alone.

Although mental health is a growing concern, the stigma associated with mental issues is even greater. Nearly 90% of people who suffer from a mental health issue say that the stigma and discrimination they face has a negative effect on their lives.

Many people think of mental health as an illness that creates ’dangerous’ or ’violent’ behaviour. This stereotype is highly inaccurate. Majority of people with mental health issues are at higher risk of harming themselves in comparison to others.

When discrimination is experienced, it can actually make mental health issues worse. When you feel socially isolated, it can delay or prevent seeking proper treatment. The terrible stigma associated with mental health can make people feel trapped within their own illness.

Another main concern is the media, which Robin Williams would have known all too well. Media tends to link mental illness to violent crimes and disabled people who are unable to live fulfilled lives. Robin Williams was commonly in the media regarding his alcohol and drug abuse as he struggled with addiction in the 1970’s and early 80’s.

Williams remained sober for 20 years, but returned to the bottle while working in Alaska. He began his drinking habits again in 2003, and it wasn’t until three years later that his family staged an intervention. He has been attending AA meetings, appearing to be highly proud of his sobriety. It is hard to believe that he would take his own life. 

The fact is, there will be many more tragic suicides in the upcoming days, months, and years. We need to start changing the way we view and treat mental health. It is said that 90% of suicide cases involve depression or another mental health issue. The numbers don’t lie, and it’s time to open our eyes.

Robin Williams was a beautiful soul. He gave us a captivating performance in Good Will Hunting, made us laugh and cry in Jack, enriched childhood memories with Jumanji and Hook, played a touching and hilarious role in Mrs. Doubtfire, and brought us dozens of other incredible performances.

If you think that someone is struggling with depression or any other mental health concern, you need to offer your support. If you yourself are suffering, then do not be afraid to reach out. There are many resources and support systems available. You do not need to feel alone or scared. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, which is a beautiful and productive life. It can be hard to see how many people truly love you when you feel your worst. If Robin Williams death does come back as suicide, he left behind a loving family, hundreds of friends, and millions of fans.

Depression and mental health can consume someone, making them feel that suicide is the only escape. As mentioned, you need to reach out to loved one’s who appear to be suffering. If you are suffering, remember that there’s help, love, and life ahead of you.

Robin Williams will forever be missed by millions. As you mourn for him, please think about the others that have and are still currently struggling with mental health issues. We need to be the change we’d like to see. So, do not give into the inaccurate stigma associated with mental health. Be a positive influence in someone’s life, this could make a world of difference.

RIP Robin Williams, thank-you for the tears, laughs, joys, memories, and awareness. Sleep easy, you’ll be highly missed. 


Photo credits: FlickrTudo Em Cima