Robin Williams died, and it was most likely suicide. He had been struggling with depression for a long while. There’s a flood of posts on social media about how he brought laughter to others and how he was a talented soul, and I agree so heartily with those sentiments, but there’s something more that’s nagging at me right now. There’s something tugging violently at my heartstrings that I cannot ignore it.
The man who brought joy to others could not find joy himself.
We spectate on the lives of celebrities and we consume what they give us and then we move on. Robin Williams’ death will not impact our lives in the long term, but today it is all that Facebook can speak about. The posts about ISIS are suspended in favour of the death of a comedian, and I understand. I understand that we’re attached to this individual because he’s been a strange part of our households for a long time… but I’m sad.
I’m sad because so often those with the loudest laughter feel a weight of sorrow privately. I’m sad because for a public figure to speak openly about mental illness is near impossible. I’m sad because a man who can make others smile seemed to have forgotten how to smile himself. I’m sad that he could not find hope when the words of some of his characters brought others such hope.
I guess all I’m trying to say is that I’m sad, and I’m fearful for our society that sweeps pain under the rug when we should speak more boldly of it. We should give people permission and the methods with which to speak their sadness, so that we can share their burden. We need to. Please, we have to. We have to be bold as the students that stood on tables and cried “oh captain, my captain!” in the face of a principal that would see them silent. We have to fight. We have to.
I’ll leave you with this, because this scene is etched into my mind from year eight English class.