Skip to main content

mental health mondays :: anyone, anywhere, anytime

since you're on the internet, i'm assuming that you already know that comedian  actor consummate performer robin williams died earlier today, apparently from suicide. the reaction has ranged from shocked to astonished, with people who knew him personally or through his work trying to process the idea of someone who made a career out of being packed with highly unstable explosive life could die by his own hand.

it is always sad to lose an artist of any sort whose work has touched you, given you something you could connect to your own life. as it happens, williams did that for me on several occasions and he became one of many people i never met whose presence on earth made my life a little better. from what i've seen among my friends and acquaintances, i'm guessing that was a pretty common sentiment.

the fact that this appears to have been the result of a mental illness makes it that much sadder to me, because it further emphasizes how poorly understood even the most common mental disorders are. we're shocked to hear of robin williams' suicide because we can't imagine what reason he had to want to end his life, which points to a fundamental mistake in our thoughts about depression: we're still assuming that depressed people are depressed for a specific reason.

there were a couple of red flags in his past: robin williams had struggled for years with addiction, which is so frequently comorbid with mental disorders that it can be difficult to tell which is the primary condition and which is the symptom; and he had had open heart surgery, which is known to trigger depression. but in the end, someone as successful, financially secure and popular as robin williams seemed to have nothing that would drive him to suicide.

people do, of course, become depressed and commit suicide because of specific events or circumstances, in the same way that people have heart attacks because they are under tremendous stress, or because they've followed an extremely unhealthy diet for too long. but in the same way that heart attacks can strike seemingly out of nowhere, depression can just appear and start to dismantle the mind from the inside. it's called a disorder for a reason. things aren't working the way that they should. you can be anyone- a wealthy person [with racial and gender privilege], with adoring fans, a loving family, success in your calling, a beautiful home, but just as none of that is a guarantee you won't have a heart attack, none of it means you can't be pulled down by depression.

more importantly, it means that we can't continue to think of mental disorders like depression as if they were different than any other kind of ailment. because if they can take down someone like robin williams, who seemed to be in the very best position to fight them, imagine what they can do to the rest of us.

[p.s. :: amidst the outpouring of sentiment, many people have shared their personal favourites from williams' oeuvre. dead poets' society certainly struck a chord with me in my teens and i have always felt that mrs. doubtfire is the best family-oriented film on the subject of divorce ever made, but more recently, i've really come to love his work with writer/ director bobcat goldthwait, in particular world's greatest dad.]

Comments

Anonymous said…
Yeah, Robin's death came so unexpected :-( He was always so smiley and seemed so happy you know. Just goes to show how dangerous depression can be and how easily it can be hidden and missed.

as long as you're here, why not read more?

dj kali & mr. dna @ casa del popolo post-punk night

last night was a blast! a big thank you to dj tyg for letting us guest star on her monthly night, because we had a great time. my set was a little more reminiscent of the sets that i used to do at katacombes [i.e., less prone to strange meanderings than what you normally hear at the caustic lounge]. i actually invited someone to the night with the promise "don't worry, it'll be normal". which also gives you an idea of what to expect at the caustic lounge. behold my marketing genius.

mr. dna started off putting the "punk" into the night [which i think technically means i was responsible for the post, which doesn't sound quite so exciting]. i'd say that he definitely had the edge in the bouncy energy department.

many thanks to those who stopped in throughout the night to share in the tunes, the booze and the remarkably tasty nachos and a special thank you to the ska boss who stuck it out until the end of the night and gave our weary bones a ride home…

the war is over

i assumed that the live coverage of last weekend's "march for our lives" would be hard to watch, and in some ways, it was. however, i did not expect that it would feel so joyful and empowering as well. 
the idea that "joyful" can be used in the description of a rally around the subject of violence and death seems bizarre, and certainly many of the speeches were anything but. however, it was difficult not to watch things unfold on saturday and not have the feeling that there is a spirit of positive change. young people, younger than the much-discussed millennial demographic, are taking it to the powers that be and those powers be shakin' in their shoes.

it's hardly surprising that cheeto benito ran off to golf for the weekend rather than stay and face the music of arianna grande and common; after all, he spends every weekend on a taxpayer-funded golf holiday. nor is it surprising that congress's most vocal critics of gun reform apparently spent the …

friday favourites 20.07.12

i was almost going to skip it this week. not out of any disinterest, but i always feel weird posting something flip and cheeky on days when the news is choked with stories of some location filled with people going about their lives suddenly getting shot up by a lone maniac with some sort of personal gripe or agenda.

awful things happen every single day. people who lead otherwise normal lives are suddenly transformed through violence every single day. by the harsh standards of the world, what happened last night in aurora, colorado isn't even close to the worst. i'm sure families in syria would consider a day where ten people died to be better than average. but there is something about these completely random mass shootings in otherwise fairly peaceful places that haunts us all here in the western world. it happened today with aurora. it happened a year ago sunday in norway. it happened in another colorado town, now synonymous with the terror of such a massacre in 1999.

what h…