August 11, 2014 – the day the world became a little less funny and a lot more sad.
The news that Robin Williams had passed from this world took all of us here at the MGT by surprise as I’m sure it did many of you. He had the kind of a gift you don’t see very often – one that transcended generations: he graduated from the esteemed Juilliard School for theater and jumped into entertaining my parents’ generation in Mork and Mindy and never looked back. Who doesn’t remember “Goooooooood morning, Vietnamm!”? And for those that don’t, there are so many other works: Dead Poets Society, Hook, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hamlet, Flubber, Good Will Hunting, RV, Man of the Year, Night at the Museum, and The Crazy Ones just to name a few. I, for one, know that the Genie from Aladdin and his character in Jumanji will be two of my favourite childhood characters. And all of this doesn’t even take in account his stand-up act. The man spent 37 years of his life putting smiles on people’s faces – some in his circle say he just never turned it off.
He made us laugh and he left the world a better place – that’s what I’ll remember.
Sure, he was just like any other man. He had his ups, his downs, his straight ups and his sideways. He was married a lot, he had kids he loved, he had his fair share of problems with substances, he loved video games, he was depressed (we’ll get to that below), and he spent a good deal of his life dedicated to helping those less fortunate than him. A lot going on for a man as talented as he was, and we’ll miss the person he let us know – but his family will miss him for the man he was.
In the end, he made us laugh: children, teenagers, adults. All of us, and laughter is one of the greatest gifts someone can give to another.
But isn’t there a saying about those that smile the biggest and laugh the loudest hide the deepest hurts?
Williams’ tragedy will – and should – lead to another round of calls for change. Mental health is a real issue, whether it’s cause is physical, genetic, social, or chemical; there is no doubt it unfortunately effects far too many. We all realize these truths far too late in far too many cases, or we ignore them. There has always been a stigma associated with mental illnesses, in the past we were too ashamed to mention that a family member suffered and was in an asylum – now we don’t even have asylums to send people to for care. No, we just ignore warning signs and pretend there are no problems… especially when it comes to those closest to us. No one wants to face their own demons, and in many cases listening to those who are at their whit’s end would require that we look in the mirror as well.
Because of a systemic discomfort that’s instilled in us from a very young age, we’ve become too adept at ignoring those in need of real help. We’d rather block their post, turn off the ringer, or quickly change the subject to any other more trivial topic that’s we can find. Especially today, in the social/online world we live in, we far too quickly jump to further criticize or – in some circles – even abuse those who are making a final attempt to reach out to an increasingly empty world.
Those people who lash out are no different than those who are suffering deeply, detached so far from reality they would do anything for a sliver of attention that will no doubt not satisfy the emptiness. In celebrity circles comedians have always had a high suicide rate, dependency issues, and mental health issues. A high cynicisms factor often masks someone’s inner emotions, when the laughter starts to fade and they return to the loneliness that brought on their craft: hopelessness.
Robin Williams like so many tragedies before him was failed. Failed by the society that couldn’t help him diagnose his early feelings, a society that laughed at and with him while he covered his angst, a society that ignored him as his career and life spiraled into his end decision. We must do better as a collective group of human beings, we need to listen, truly listen, and act on real solutions to our issues instead of burying them. Long looks in the mirror aren’t going to end your life, but they could better them if you stand up and get help. On the flip side, when that hand extends to you don’t ignore it and look the other way. Grab it. Do the right thing. You never know when it’s the difference between someone’s last effort and something you think is trivial.
Robin Williams will be greatly missed in many circles and especially by us here. I can speak from both sides of this problem, action must be taken. There is a kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.
If you need help, or know someone who does please check out the links below. We’re not experts, we don’t claim to be – but hopefully you’ll get in touch with someone who is. Remember, together we can make the world a better place – the place we want it to be.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
~ E.S. Norton & J.T. Riles ~
Categories: Social Choices