It was with great sadness that I heard of Robin Williams's suicide yesterday. Apparently he had struggled with depression as well as cocaine and alcohol addiction (self-medication).
Actor Stellan Skarsgard (who starred with Williams in 'Good Will Hunting') said in an interview that it was as if Williams had 3 different brains going at the same time. When it was just them talking he could be serious and they could discuss deep issues. However, if more people entered the room, Williams would suddenly change and start making jokes and so on.
To me, the comic and the solemn parts Williams displayed were also reflected in his movies. The 'funny' side was shown in 'Aladdin', 'Hook', 'Mrs Doubtfire' etc. while the more serious side was visible in 'Good Will Hunting' and 'Dead Poets' Society' among others.
Being able to demonstrate such a variety of emotions and talents on screen made him one of a kind, able to make us both laugh and cry.
Few actors today have the range of talent that Williams had. Depression is a widespread issue in today's society.
Williams's death teaches us to be more attentive to people around us who may be struggling and to offer our support.
The illness is a battle of the mind, and many people are fighting that battle alone in the dark every day.
I have learnt that you never, ever give in to the disease. Depression is an illness, it is not permanent, and it can be healed. Let's pay attention to the small signs in people around us, and help them in their healing.
The following could be signs of depression:
- continuous low mood or sadness
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- having low self esteem
- feeling tearful
- feeling guilt-ridden
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- having no motivation or interest in things
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- not getting any enjoyment out of life
- feeling anxious or worried
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
Physical symptoms include:
- moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- change in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
- unexplained aches and pains
- lack of energy or lack of interest in sex (loss of libido)
- changes to your menstrual cycle
- disturbed sleep (for example, finding it hard to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning)
Social symptoms include:
- not doing well at work
- taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends
- neglecting your hobbies an interests
- having difficulties in your home and family life
If you need help or want to find out more, please visit the mental health charity Mind's website (a great organisation which I also volunteer as a mentor for) or the NHS website.