Robin Williams: A Death that Hits Home

Guest blogger Leesa Brown shares a personal reaction to Williams’ suicide and its ramifications for mental health

Originally published on:
Filed in: current events & culture

(Photo Credit: Peggy Sirota for Parade Magazine)

Editor’s note: Robin Williams has been an inspiration for me for a long time—as a man with supreme range, and a singular sense of the world—culminating in his turn as a mentally unstable homeless man in “The Fisher King,” directed by Terry Gilliam. “King” is still one of my favorites of all time, because of its deeply touching and profound commitment to storytelling and character development. Gilliam recounts a particularly intense day of “Fisher King” shooting in which Williams had committed himself so fully that he would press for more and more shoots. “I just had to hug him,” Gilliam said.

Read more about it
here, and now please enjoy an op-ed from the uber-talented Leesa Brown, my good friend and frequent collaborator. Leesa has a personal connection to suicide that she opens up about below. Feel free to leave a Facebook comment below. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading. - WP

Robin Williams: A Death that Hits Home

by Leesa Brown

In 2003, my ex-husband (and father of my children) committed suicide. At the time, I will admit it - I thought of it as selfish and uncaring. I felt as if he hadn't taken the feelings of those around him into consideration when he made that final decision.

The death of Robin Williams has brought the subject of suicide into the public eye, and I realize now that my characterization of selfishness was wrong. As someone else said (I do not remember who it was), sometimes those who commit suicide are thinking of their family and friends - and assuming everyone else would be better off without them. It isn't true, but with the deep despair that surrounds someone in a depressive state, that reality cannot find a way in.

David Letterman’s tribute to Robin Williams (Late Show on YouTube)

I was wrong to think of it as selfishness, but in the shock that follows something as devastating as a suicide, the reactions can be every bit as confused and irrational as the thought processes that led to the suicide itself.

I have been through bouts of depression. Some were caused by red dye, some were organic, some caused by events in my life. I should have known better than to make such an assumption about John's death, but too often we look for answers, and when we can't find them, we make up something that will get us through the day, whether it makes sense or not.

I will do my best to avoid that reaction in the future, and I hope that anyone contemplating suicide will seek help from family, friends, and/or medical professionals.

To that point, I honestly wish that doctors and therapists would work more on healing, and less on just slapping a bandage on something to cover it up. Medications for depression may truly help some, but too often they're just a way to shove the problem under the rug so we can pretend it doesn't exist. Building self-esteem and repairing emotional injuries would go a long way. Therapy is often a lifesaver - literally.

We're working on better health care for all - now let's add dental health and mental health to the list, please.

If you're depressed, seek help. If you know someone who is depressed, please - let them know you care. Hug your friends and family just a little more often. It is the cheapest form of mental health care we have, and it feels great.

Leesa Brown is an avid photographer and artist based in Orlando. Her Florida sunset pictures are widely regarded as some of the best captures in the state. Last year, Leesa’s “Riding the Light” earned Positive Impact $950 in unfettered funds. Follow her on twitter @ReasonVsFear.

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