"Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"
As we all start to process the passing of Robin Williams, this quote from Plato seems especially apt. While the comic actor was open about his ongoing struggle with depression and addiction, he was much better known for brightening up the screen with his unique energy and skill for silly voices. From Aladdin to Jumanji to personal favorite Mrs. Doubtfire, many of our childhoods were filled with his memorable performances. He was a master at throwing himself into roles so completely that even a simple shrill "Hellooo" could convey volumes about a character. For that talent, already being captured in slideshows and lists across the internet, he will always be remembered.
But the "hard battle" Robin Williams fought is also important. It brings to light a truth many of us know firsthand or from seeing someone we love experience: Depression is real and can affect anyone, regardless of who you are or what your circumstances are. There are no simple explanations for depression and the feelings of severe sadness and thoughts of suicide it can cause, but there are MANY ways and people who are willing to help you cope. If you're feeling triggered by the news and social media around Robin Williams, it is especially important to keep that in mind now. There is help available 24/7 from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
One way to start coping? Sharing any difficult feelings or thoughts you have with others in the ReachOut Forums. It's normal to be affected by the passing of a public figure and by talking it out you can help yourself and others better understand the emotional process. You may also hear from others who have discovered their own coping strategies for times like this.
Another way to deal is by keeping in mind that not all media coverage is created equal. Some reporters and commenters have a limited understanding of the complex issues behind suicide that may be reflected in sensational headlines, graphic details or insensitive questions that suggest there was "nothing to feel depressed about." The best way to combat these misguided discussions online or in print is to seek out alternatives with a more nuanced understanding of mental health and the many resources available for support such as Lifeline and The Trevor Project.
You may also want to apply this approach to real life conversations around mental health. If you encounter someone who says something hurtful or demonstrates a lack of understanding around what it means to live with mental illness, it is completely okay to say something. By sensitively sharing your views (rather than attacking theirs) you may be able to impact how someone thinks or even open a thoughtful dialogue. Of course, if you don't feel comfortable, you can also change the subject or walk away. Whatever you need to do to take care of you. You may also find it helpful to read up on the facts around depression causes and common myths.
No matter how you deal with potential triggers for depression, know that you are not alone.
You may also find some of these fact sheets helpful:
After someone ends their life by suicide: how you might feel
How talking to someone can help
Do you have thoughts or feelings you’d like to share? Comment below or join our discussion in the ReachOut Forums.