Depression does not discriminate

The world reacted with shock this week at the news actor and comedian Robin Williams had died at the age of 63.

But it was the nature of his passing that bit the hardest - a suspected suicide, according to police.

It seemed incongruous. How could this man who brought so much joy, entertainment and laughter to the world have taken his own life? How could this man who had taught the world so much about life through his art, about growing up, growing old, falling in love and falling apart, have died this way?

It was crushing, and the tributes that flowed from around the world, from celebrities and cinema-goers alike, only reinforced the confusion.

The tributes told of how Williams' acting roles had touched people's lives. How Mrs Doubtfire had helped children through their parents' divorce or his turn as Peter Pan had helped them to not fear growing up.

He was inspirational as English teacher John Keating in Dead Poets' Society and a decade later again as a psychologist in Good Will Hunting. He could also be terrifying on screen, such as in the films One Hour Photo and Insomnia. Away from the stage and camera, Williams was an outstanding person. Many of his colleagues spoke of his warmth, his friendship, his willingness to help them and his humour.

But he was also troubled. He had battled with drug and alcohol addictions and had gone through more than one marriage break-up.

His work later in his career did not receive the critical acclaim or box office success of his best known work from the 1980s and 90s.

He blessed the world with a life's body of work that brought laughter, smiles, thrills, frights and lessons.

But if we are to learn one final lesson from the life of Robin Williams, perhaps it should be this: mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts can afflict anyone. The black dog does not discriminate by wealth, critical acclaim or popularity, or by how many Oscars you have.

We don't know why Williams took his own life but we will all know someone with depression. Many of the public responses to Williams' death included pleas to ask for help if you need it. Equally important is reaching out to those in your life who may be struggling. There are a number of services that can offer help.

They include, but are not limited to:

Lifeline 0800 543 354, the Depression Helpline 0800 111 757, the Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 and Youthline, 0800 376 633.

Suicide is an excruciating way to lose a loved one, and can claim even those as universally beloved as Williams.


An editing mix-up resulted in the publication yesterday of the same editorial that appeared in the paper the day before. We sincerely apologise for the error.

Manawatu Standard