I woke this morning to the news that Robin Williams is dead. By suicide. The man who has made me laugh all my life was so unhappy, in so much pain that he saw only one way out. The man responsible for Mork, Mrs Doubtfire, Parry and Armand Goldman wasn’t always happy. Despite, fame, fortune and a family who loved him he felt so alone that he chose to die. This so desperately sad that it’s hard to find the words to do justice to how I feel about this situation.

He had been in treatment for severe depression, and if we can take anything from this tragedy it has to be a chance to speak out about this illness. For this is an illness, not a weakness, not a selfishness, an illness which can affect anyone. Depression has no regard for social standing, wealth or lifestyle. It’s an illness that can make a person feel so grey, so pointless that they can’t see a way through it and into a happier place. Then when a person feels as low as they can, when they need to be cocooned in a safe place, surrounded by those that love them, instead they can end up dealing with stigma and misunderstanding. Which conversely they are not equipped to deal with at all because of the illness.

Personally I’ve dealt with depression many times. Now, older and less optimistic that I will ever see the back of it’s ugly grey I despair when I’m sucked back into it’s shadow. Here we go again, enough, my mind cries. Yet one day someone very close to me said “well at least it’s just depression, not like it’s cancer or something”. They didn’t mean to be callous, they just didn’t understand that depression is a serious illness, and it’s a killer.

Mental health services in this country are patchy. I’ve had experiences where I’ve received the best care from brilliant doctors and for that I’m thankful. I’ve also had to fight to be seen, at a time when fighting felt impossible. I’ve dealt with arrogant psychiatrists who didn’t take the time to talk to me before drawing conclusions. I’ve dealt with budget cuts, meaning that only the extremely ill get seen. Leaving those for whom early intervention would stop the decent into darkness (harder to climb out of the deeper you go) struggling and without support.

Please, let’s talk about this illness, let’s make the struggle less lonely. If you have a friend or family member with depression, offer them a hug, a smile, your support even if you don’t understand. If you want to go further help them get to the doctor, push for them when treatment options are sparse. Take the fight off their hands so they can curl up and cope.

Robin Williams was a brilliant man and he made me laugh a lot. I wish someone could have made him laugh when he needed it. RIP.

robin williams