As the world found out that legendary actor and comedian Robin Williams had died at the age of 63, reactions to the news tributes to the much loved entertainer instantly started to pour in, with many reflecting on the fact that despite whatever inner turmoils he had, he still found the energy and strength to keep the rest of the world laughing.
He was found at his Californian home and pronounced dead at 12:02pm (PST) on August 11th, with the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspecting suicide due to asphyxia. It has been confirmed by the stars publicist that he had also been battling depression, with his most recent stint in rehab being a month before his death.
Robin Williams shot to fame in the 1970s when he starred in the TV series Mork & Mindy (1978 – 1982). Since then he has featured in many classic movies, including Good Morning, Vietman (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), Good Will Hunting (1997), Patch Adams (1998), Bicentennial Man (1999), One Hour Photo (2002), Robots (2005) and the Night at the Museum film series (2006 2009 and 2014)
Some of the movies can now be viewed in a different light. In World’s Greatest Dad (2009), Robin’s character Lance gives this now sadly ironic advice: “If you’re that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember, suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”
Whether it be the funny, happy go lucky characters featured in classic comedies, to profoundly memorable, moving and genuine serious roles, Robin Williams was able to turn his hand to whatever was required and give it his all.
Aside from a fantastic and expansive career in film, Robin also was a successful standup comedian, delivering his sharp satirical and often improvised routines with an unfathomable energy and gusto.
Tributes have poured in from around the world from the public and celebrities alike. Comedian Billy Connolly called Robin both a friend and a hero, saying that he was “a unique talent and a kind and generous man”. Director Steven Speilberg said “Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him.” Comedian Ricky Gervais also tweeted: “I am deeply saddened. He was a lovely man who would keep everyone laughing even if he wasn’t feeling good himself.”
Robin’s wife Susan Schneider issued a statement saying: “I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken.” And even US president Barak Obama issued a tribute saying: “He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry.”
As well as the massive emotional outpouring at the loss of one of the worlds greatest acting and comedy talents, the death of Robin Williams has once again highlighted the problems caused by depression and mental illness. UK comedian Jason Manford took to his Facebook page to post this heartfelt and touching message:
If you feel alone and down, anxious and low. If you feel deep sadness but can’t find a root cause. If people tell you to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘things can only get better’ or ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, know that it’s simply not always true. Sometimes it does kill you.
Please seek help. No one will think you’re being melodramatic, I swear. No one will think you’re silly or wasting people’s time. No one will say ‘what? But you’re always so happy, maybe you’re just having a bad day’. For some people, every day is a bad day and they get through it, but sometimes they stop getting through it.
If depression can (allegedly) kill Robin Williams, one of the world’s greatest funny men, well it can get any of us at any time. If the Genie from Aladdin can suffer and the DJ in Good Morning Vietnam can be affected by it, then so can you, or your child or friend or work colleague.
I always remind myself of the quote from Watchmen:
“Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.”
Please. Ask for help. If you have no one or if you don’t want to to tell them yet, then ring Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 for someone to talk to, or talk to your GP.
The world needs you even if you don’t think it does. I promise, we need you here, now.
Has mental illness or depression touched your life? And if it did, how did you cope? Please let us know in the ‘comments’ section below. You can also leave any tributes to Robin Williams there…and don’t forget to let us know your favourite Robin Williams movies!