When a celebrity with mental illness dies, deaths due to suicide go up.
The thinking seems to be if somebody with so much success, with access to all the best care can’t make it, what are my chances?
Robin Williams had bipolar disorder and was suffering from major depression at the time of his death. In the past, he struggled with alcoholism and a cocaine addiction. Like so many know, bearing a genius like Robin’s comes with a high price.
Robin Williams’ death comes at an especially dark time. Ebola is ravaging West Africa, the Middle East is erupting yet again, and police brutality and intense community unrest rage in Missouri over the murder of Michael Brown. Today, I felt myself deflate when I learned that Robin’s death was not a hoax as I originally thought, but a shocking reality. I know that funny people are not permanently happy, I am not delusional about this, but to have a life snuffed out by such a heavy darkness is such a brutal reminder that mental illness does not discriminate and it is not merciful.
But we are not beaten. Laughter is one of the sharpest and brightest rays of light in the darkness of mental illness, and Robin would want those who share his suffering to remember that. He was a man who understood the importance of laughter in the face of immense sadness. Resorting to suicide is not necessarily the inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is an inability to keep holding on until that light is within reach. When I have contemplated suicide in the past, it is not because I can’t imagine an end to my suffering; it just seems too far away, and I am so, so tired. Laughter helps us along the way, it makes the journey a little easier, my steps a little lighter.
Just keep holding on. Keep breathing. Keep laughing.