Trigger warning: This post deals with depression, addiction and suicide. There are links provided at the bottom of the page, to help anyone battling these disorders.
Today news broke of Robin Williams death and the world collectively mourned.
It may sound dramatic in ways that so many people can be affected by someone’s death – particularly someone a lot of us did not personally know. But much like other celebrities before him, sometimes there is a death of someone prominent that completely rocks you to your core and you don’t always understand why.
While some mourned, others ridiculed them. Social media, while great in so many ways, can really bring out unattractive traits in people. For every ten #RIP Robin Williams, there was always going to be one person who says something like this:
“You don’t care when *hundreds of other people in this country die* but you care for a celebrity?”
This is not to say people don’t care about people dying in war or in third-world countries. People do.
But this is why we care when someone famous dies and why it’s okay to care.
When someone so prominent in the spotlight dies from a sudden death before their time, it shocks us. And when someone like Robin Williams, who made so many people laugh and who was rarely seen without his trademark grin dies from suicide, it thrusts into the spotlight that depression does not discriminate. Depression doesn’t just affect that person we knew from school, a work colleague or a friend of a friend. It can affect anyone, even the people that seemingly have their life ‘together.’
We are sad when famous people die because while we may not personally know them, they have played a role in huge parts of our life. It could be our favourite movies, our childhood memories or the album we didn’t stop playing for a year straight. It could be the time we met them, a concert we went to that turned into the best nights of our life, or perhaps they provided a moment for when we bonded with someone now close to us.
For our generation, Robin Williams was our favourite genie, the hilarious babysitter we wished we had and the man we studied in English class that proved it was possible to love a film you had to study. For generations above us, he was their favourite comedian and an actor that could transform himself from serious to funny in the blink of an eye.
We care when someone famous dies, because we live under an illusion that celebrities ‘have it all.’ That they would never understand what it’s like to suffer. So when deaths rock us, like Robin Williams and Charlotte Dawson from suicide or like Heath Ledger, Peaches Geldof or Cory Monteith from addiction, we’re shocked. And we’re sad. Because if celebrities who ‘have it all’ succumb to disorders and illnesses such as depression or addiction, what does that say for the rest of us?
What it gives us though, the small silver lining in the gloomy cloud, is a reason to keep going and a means to keep talking and fighting against the stigma of disorders such as depression and addiction.
There’ll be always someone who says suicide is selfish or that addiction is not a disease but a choice. And there’ll always be someone who feels the need to trivialise a famous person’s death for reasons I will never understand.
But for today, we join the world in saying a farewell to Robin Williams and thanking him for providing us with so many of our favourite childhood films and memories. And if his last parting gift to the world is the fact we’re once again openly talking about depression in a bid to understand it and help those who fight it, then we thank him for that also.
If this article has bought up any issues for you, you can contact Lifeline on 131 114. Beyond Blue and The Black Dog Institute are also a fantastic resources for you to learn more about depression, suicide and for any help you may need. Remember that you’re never alone in this.
Article by TAHLIA PRITCHARD.Follow @tahls