Contributor: Elisabeth Jayne
The death of comedian Robin Williams came as a shock to fans around the world on Monday. While death is an inevitable process of the human condition, the manner in which it happened caught people off guard. Williams was known for his infectiously bubbly persona, and by all accounts was a kind and generous man. But behind the mask that he showed to the public was an inner turmoil that culminated in the events of August 11th 2014. Exactly what he was going through, no one may ever know. But what I do know is the mindset that comes with being in that dark pit of despair that suicidal thoughts thrive in.
The world of comedy is no stranger to depression. Coupled with substance abuse, it has claimed the lives of more than a few comedians, including John Belushi and Chris Farley. Richard Pryor also perhaps infamously struggled with substance abuse issues for years, though he died from a heart attack. It brings to the forefront an issue that is, unfortunately, all too common, the issue of severe depression and suicide.
I have personally lived in this pit that breeds such self-deprecation as to lead someone to take their own life. Most recently last year, I particularly struggled with suicidal thoughts. Though I tend to present a silly and fun-loving persona most of the time, that was truly only a small part of who I was. It was, rather, what I chose to present to the world, shoving aside the depressed and disheartened feelings I wallowed in in private on a daily basis. When doctors failed to give me any solutions, I wrote them off and self-medicated with alcohol instead. At one point, I was going through, at bare minimum, a bottle of wine a night, though often more than that. For me, it was preferable to be drunk and be the fun person that everyone wanted to talk and interact with than it was to just be myself and express my real feelings. The fact that I’m here to write this is a miracle in and of itself, and is the result of one of the best things you can do for a suicidal person.
I’m sure most people aren’t really sure how to deal with someone struggling with depression. Little meaningless sentiments are banded about, mostly about how life is still worth living and everything will get better and how we just need to buck up and push through it. These do not help at all, and if anything tend to make things worse. Being dismissive of the seriousness of the situation is just as bad. Doctors may help, but in my personal experience, they tended to just want to shove pills down my throat and didn’t seem to concerned about what I was feeling and rather if my symptoms were getting better.
Now, I don’t want to downplay professional help, as that can help and has helped many people. But the one prevailing thing that helps about all else is something that’s so simple it seems stupid. What we need most of all, is someone to listen. Not a doctor in a professional, clinical setting, but a trusted friend who cares and who will listen. Even if you don’t know what to say to someone, just sit and listen. Let us talk and talk until we can’t talk anymore, and then let us know that we are loved and you are here for us. The worst feeling is the world is feeling like we’re all alone in this, and the best way to combat that is to let us know that we are not alone. That what we’re suffering through doesn’t have to be done alone. That there is support out there for us, we need only reach out and ask.
If you’re struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, and you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, know that there are people who can help. If you don’t want to go to a friend or family member, there are places you can call where you’re anonymous and will still find the listening ear you need. The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Here is a link to suicide hotlines for each state along with international numbers to reach out to as well. Or, if you don’t feel like you can physically verbalize your feelings, you can go here to chat online with someone. You don’t have to go through this alone. Please reach out if you need help.
To everyone else, please, try to be kinder and considerate of others. Robin Williams is case in point that you can just never tell what a person is going through. Let’s not let his tragic death be in vain. Let it be a rallying point for support for those who deal with the same issues so we can get rid of the stigma of mental illness. It’s a very real issue that many, many people deal with, so let’s start treating it like the serious issue it is.