Robin Williams touched our lives. Through generations of entertainment, he earned our admiration and our respect. He earned our devotion and our affection. He brought us laughter, and he induced our tears. He brought wisdom, and he brought hope.
On August 11, 2014, he brought us despair, and he left us with questions, so very many questions. They are questions without answers.
Family, friends, and worldwide admirers never will know the last thoughts, the last feelings, that drove him to commit his final fatal act. This is the agonizing truth of any suicide. We are left wounded and distraught. We so fiercely want answers.
Instead of answers, we have a legacy. We have a timeless treasure trove of comedy and drama performed over decades by one of the greatest talents in the entertainment industry. As soon as news broke that Williams had hanged himself, social media and newscasts exploded not only with reactions to his death, but also with clips of sentimental favorite performances. No doubt, those clips will be in the forefront in days and weeks to come. They give us a way to keep him close, to hold his memory dear. They keep his spirit alive as we deal with our shock and grief.
Actor Brought Social Issues to Forefront
In some of his more notable roles, Robin Williams brought attention to serious societal issues – homelessness in “The Fisher King,” war and censorship in “Good Morning, Vietnam,” gender identity in “The Birdcage,” domestic violence in “Good Will Hunting.” In real life, Williams, without fanfare and without a desire for publicity, supported his own personal passions – the San Diego-based Challenged Athletes Foundation and the National Coalition for the Homeless. In many photos of his acting roles and of his charitable work, his eyes make no secret of his vulnerability and compassion. It may be this very sensitivity — the extreme sensitivity of those dealing with depression and addiction — that turned into one of his demons.
Suicide Opens Door To Discussions Of Depression and Substance Abuse
If good can come from this tragedy, it is open discussions that have arisen about the diseases of depression, bipolar disorder and addiction. Despite medical advances and social awareness, these diseases still bear a stigma. Sufferers and their loved ones often go to any lengths to hide their guilt and shame. People in the substance abuse recovery community understand those feelings. We understand the torment of a mind that tells lies of unworthiness; we understand the depths of despair. While we will never know the innermost self of Robin Williams, we get him. We get him, and we can share our experience, strength and hope with others as a way to honor our brother whose diseases drove him to his tragic end.