Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty-four hours, you probably know that Robin Williams has died in what appears to be a suicide.
Like many, I was shocked by the news. At first, I thought it was hoax. The idea that we live in a world where for many the first thought when they hear about someone dying is a hoax is probably fodder for another post in the future.
Williams isn’t the first celebrity to take his own life or accidentally end life while trying to numb something through drugs or alcohol usage. And yet, every time we see shocked by it. I think there are a couple things to learn from Williams death.
I think we need to learn from it or else we waste it. His death is tragic. It is terrible. It is senseless. It leaves behind a grieving widow and fatherless children. It also highlights our false belief that money, success and things satisfy.
1. We have to accept that money, success and happiness will not bring us happiness. I wrote about this when Whitney Houston died. We create a false narrative in our head that we’ll be happy when _____________ (fill in the blank) happens. Of course, that is patently false and broken. We have a plethora of data to prove this to us and yet we functionally live in a way that denies and ignores this fact. Those things aren’t wrong, but they simply don’t satisfy.
We have to stop chasing things that don’t matter.
2. We have to realize that there probably a lot of people we know, who are in our close circle of friends who are struggling with depression and anxiety.
Someone you know is probably struggling with the thoughts of ending her life today.
We have to realize that there are far more people than we are comfortable admitting who struggle daily with the idea of ending their lives.
We tend to create caricatures in our head of what a depressed person looks like and how he acts. Sometimes, those caricatures are correct. Most of the time they are dead wrong.
People truly bent on killing themselves rarely tell anyone overtly. They communicate it ways that are often almost impossible to see looking forward. Usually, they are brought into clarity when they are seen looking backward but by then it is too late.
So if you think you might know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, ask them. Ask them how you might be able to help. Ask them if they are thinking about hurting themselves.
Depressed people often feel stuck because they need to move in order get unstuck but the depression causes them to feel like moving is hopeless so they stay stuck.
They may get mad at you. Your own narrative may tell you that it’s none of your business, but push through that. Reach out.
The thing is, with people contemplating suicide, they are working on a plan. They are not seeing clearly.
They are hurting and stuck. What they are not, is typically logical. Their world is bent by their disease. Applying the logic of those of us who do not suffer from this disorder is not only unfair, it’s silly.
Robin Williams death is a tragedy for his family and loved ones. I am afraid it will be more of a tragedy because as a society we will once again fail to learn how to handle those around us who are depressed.
In our society, we seem to have no place for people who aren’t happy all the time. Many depressed people learn to just fake it because as a society we want people to be happy all the time and we typically see what we want to see.
May we find the courage to see what it is,not simply what we want to be.
If you are feeling suicidal please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.