To the rest of us, celebrities appear to be immortal. They grace our televisions and big screens with an energy and talent that seem larger than life. We remember their characters, mimic their lines, and debate on our loves and hatreds of them. But when they die of whatever afflicts them, reality brings us back to earth. They’re really human, we say, with hopes, fears, happiness, and dark struggles like the rest of us. Some of them just have a better time of projecting their better persona to the general public, hiding what was really lurking beneath their optimistic, often energetic appearances until its too late.
Robin Williams’ death is probably one that has really affected me deeply. I admired his energy, optimism, versatility on stage and screen, something that I rarely say about any actor. It was amazing that he could play a flamboyant Genie in Aladdin one minute then turn around and play a dark, impulsive stalker in One Hour Photo. I’ll always remember him in Jumanji being chased by lions and monkeys, the first movie where I truly became aware of Robin Williams (aside from Aladdin). He was a big part of my childhood and hearing of his death by suicide Monday rocked me. I wish I could say I followed Robin’s career down to the T, but I didn’t. I always knew that if I needed a good movie, a Robin Williams film would always be the best bet.
Having depression is probably the worst thing a person can have. It doesn’t matter whether you’re famous or the average Joe, depression can hit you whether you expect it or not. Robin Williams openly talked about his drug and alcohol addictions and heart surgery, but very little, if at all about his depression. He had so much energy, so much optimism, and a personality that generated kindness and love-ability that it was hard to imagine him as someone less than happy.
Obviously, our perceptions of celebrities are often skewed and knowing whether someone, anyone is severely depressed is often masked or even mistaken for a case of the blues, especially with Robin Williams. The stigma of having depression is so great that to even mention it can cause shame and ridicule. When news of his death broke out, a friend stated that Robin Williams had suffered from severe depression for many years.
I hope that his death will be a lesson to us all that if we suspect someone’s depressed to do everything we can to get them help in spite of the stigmas attached. Of course, we should remember Williams’ life and his talent and achievements, but we should also remember that he taught us to reach out to those around us and tell them that they’ve “got a friend in me.”