Robin Williams Commits Suicide
A man who brought joy and laughter to millions has ended his own life because he was too depressed to go on.
Entertainer Robin Williams, who brought joy and laughter to millions for decades, has ended his own life because he was too depressed to go on.
LA Times (“Robin Williams dies at 63 in apparent suicide“)
“I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul,” fellow actor-comedian Steve Martin said on Twitter.
Dubbed “the funniest man alive” by Entertainment Weekly in 1997, Williams brought audiences hours of laughter, putting his imaginative spin on characters in film and television. He was lauded for his serious roles as well, winning a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire, the therapist who counsels Matt Damon’s math genius in “Good Will Hunting” (1997), and receiving nominations for “The Fisher King” (1991), “Dead Poets Society” (1989) and “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987).
Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams became one of only two students accepted into John Houseman’s prestigious acting program at Juilliard, the other being Christopher Reeve, who became a lifelong friend.
Williams gained fame as Mork, the bizarre, suspenders-sporting alien on the sitcom “Mork & Mindy,” a spinoff from “Happy Days.” Williams departed from the script so often that producers intentionally left blank moments on page for Williams to have space to indulge his ad-libbing genius.
Sad and shocking news. I’m sure I watched Williams’ national breakthrough as the “Mork from Ork” character on “Happy Days” in 1978 and became a regular viewer of “Mork & Mindy” upon my return from Germany in 1979 and watched it until it imploded after the brilliant but bizarre introduction of Jonathan Winters as Mork’s much older infant son.
Williams’ versatility was remarkable, ranging from slapstick comedy to the darkly comedic. The first foray outside comedy I recall was “The World According to Garp,” which was way over my head when it appeared. But he was certainly great in “Good Morning, Vietnam” and “Dead Poets Society” and much later in “Good Will Hunting.” It’s remarkable how long ago that, which I consider the mature phase of his career, was.
He was terrific as a stand-up comic, although he did less of that than I’d have liked. His various appearances as himself on various late-night comedy shows was, prophetically perhaps, uneven. He seemed remarkably more comfortable in character as anyone but himself.
Truly a great loss.
UPDATE: Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick shares a recollection of Williams from a 1993 recording session and deepens an observation I made above:
That afternoon, I was briefly introduced to Williams and then dispatched to the other side of the glass in the recording booth, where I was allowed to sit and watch him inhabit each of these characters. It was the most electric, frantic, high-energy few hours I have ever spent in my life. The whole performance—as he read, and then hit his mental delete key and reread, trying out voices of people he didn’t know and yet capturing them completely—was unforgettable. I was aware that I was in the presence of a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime talent who could not even for a moment settle down enough to breathe himself in. For the few minutes that he was himself, talking to me, he was this sweet gentle, big-hearted guy. But he was happiest doing the voices. And you see this quality in everything he ever did, including an interview about his history of addiction where he only really seems happy when he is doing the British, the French, and the Italians. That sunny day while I watched him read, he was overtaken almost completely by the people he met, and the joy he packed into them—and into the characters he played—was, in some way, stolen from himself.
That day, Robin Williams did all the voices, read all of the paragraphs, read them again, and channeled every character in the chapter, flawlessly and without taking breaks. He just sat there and read the words Shawn wrote, and it was as if he were speaking them and the words as written were almost unnecessary. For days after I met him I was exhausted; totally depleted. And I was also aware that there was no filter, no membrane at all between Robin Williams and the rest of the world; and of what it must have cost him to so fully inhabit so many people—including a dying child he would never meet but to whom he had pledged to give voice. All I could think was how very hard it must have been to take a leave of absence from himself to do that, every day, and how hard it must have been—having done that—to find something to come home to.
Depression is a harrowing and ultimately gutting disease and Robin Williams was open about his struggle. I want to thank him for what he did for Shawn Valdez, for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and for all of us who benefitted from his generosity with his talents. Mostly I wish that his lifetime of sharing himself with us had somehow nourished him as much as it fed us all.
He played excellent villains, like in Insomniac and Two Hour Photo.
His dramatic roles were all very intense. Garp and Good Will Hunting, but also Insomnia, where he co-starred with Al Pacino, and One Hour Photo, in which he played a truly creepy guy who ended up stalking a family. He played a very similar character in an episode of Law & Order: SVU that, ironically, was just rerun during one of USA’s weekend marathons a few weeks ago
Sad news. Robin was know locally as gifted comic and natural entertainer back when he was a busboy at The Trident in Sausalito, long before he was famous. He did an hour long guest set at a club I worked at in the 80s that was the greatest display of live comedy I ever saw. He will be missed by the countless millions of people that enjoyed his work.
Ye gads! The poor man. Are people sure there wasn’t an underlying health issue?
(And The World According to Garp was a great book. I never saw the pic.)
I live just above the Tiburon Fire Department and heard sirens going off and the trucks moving out late this morning. Now there’s a helicopter hovering in place off a little to the east of me, presumably getting B-roll. It turned into a beautiful day once the fog burned off. Not the kind of day one associates with despair.
Very sad news.
The article I read indicated he had been battling severe depression. It’s sad that a man who spent a lifetime making people laugh was struggling so much on the inside.
I have to wonder how bad it can be to do that to oneself.
I knew of a fellow in his 60’s (?) who went off his anti-depressants and wandered off. He was found dead in a field the next day or so. He had slit his own throat.
Two hour movie… One Hour Photo
(… OK, 96 minutes.)
How sad. Depression is an awful disease.
Williams first appearance on the Tonight Show
I wonder if he was taking an antidepressant? Some of them will make you suicidal.
I should know. Chantix is one.
My niece flipped out on wellbutrin.
I remember watching his Night At The Roxy HBO special in 1978. Maybe 10 or so years ago they replayed it. Still hilarious.
“What is reality anyway.”
It’s a good bet that you can not perceive reality when you are dead.
Trazodone and temazepam, used for sleep issues can sometimes cause suicidal thoughts. I just have a hard time thinking he’d take his own life without something knocking him off the wall.
But then, he wouldn’t be the first comic to self-destruct, either.
Depression is a pernicious beast.
It can sometimes be caused by drug and alcohol abuse, but it is also often the cause for drug and alcohol abuse.
@ernieyeball: It’s a good bet you can’t remember that line from his act.
Very sorry to hear this. Great talent. Depression can be terrible( I’ve gone around or two with the black dog).
Was there nobody there for him? I guess not.
He will be missed.
@rodney dill: I can’t remember much of what happened yesterday so if I ever saw that particular gig of his you are right. Of course if I never saw that bit…which I don’t recall…how could I remember it?
I saw him live once and was completely blown away.
But clearly there’s something I don’t understand about depression.
Seriously…what is wrong with this guys life that he had to take the cowards way out?
He was in rehab a short time ago…clearly he had demons. Massive talent so often does.
A huge loss no matter the cause.
@ C. Clavin
There is pain that no amount of fame and fortune can take away. If it does not make sense to you, that’s actually something to be grateful for. A lot of people do understand, but wish they did not.
Cliff, I normally like you…but screw you.
“The coward’s way out”? You should be ashamed of yourself. Deeply deeply ashamed, you judgmental jackass.
Dead Poets Society is a favorite movie of mine (his character in that always reminded me of my favorite teacher), and as for a couple of dramatic roles that haven’t been mentioned already, I really liked Moscow on the Hudson and Awakenings.
So sad that someone that made so many so happy couldn’t find that happiness for himself. I can’t imagine the pain that would make me choose oblivion over life with my wife and child. It’s times like this make me wish I believed in something beyond, so I could believe he moved on to somewhere better, somewhere he could be happy.
How many comics have self-destructed in my lifetime?
I have: John Belushi, Phil Hartman was killed by his wife, Richard Pryor nearly died in that free-basing incident, and…can y’all think of more?
You know, Jonathon Winters died last year at 87. That’s depressing in itself. Christopher Reeve, one of his close friends, died not long ago.
How’s Flip Wilson doing?
Robin and Jonathon on Carson:
Flip died years ago from liver cancer. He was 64.
Take it from me, who’s lost the two men she loved most dearly in the past two years, grief can kill you, too.
Robin on Carson again:
@Janis Gore: Chris Farley, John Candy. Though Candy’s death was more weight and heart attack.
Dean Martin and Jonathon Winters:
Andy Kaufman died of lung cancer. He wasn’t a smoker. He was 35.
Our loss – Heaven’s gain …
Depression wears one down. It is a constant crackofdawn to lastfadinglight day after day, week after week, month after month, and for the truly unfortunate, year after year battle. One just gets tired. The only thing a person wants is just to close one’s eyes and rest. To find peace.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams, you have earned it.
Time to rewatch The Fisher King.
Poor man. May he rest in peace. Sometimes, when you find yourself continually surrounded by the demons, the most courageous and noble act you can take is the determination of how to leave this world.
Sometimes the little men in the knife keep calling, and you must answer.
Our greatest philosophers have struggled with the question of suicide for ages…so don’t hate me because I just don’t get it. As Anjin typed above…I’m just grateful that I don’t.
Life means so much…only Williams knew the demons and the pain that made him decide it was without meaning.
Need help? Call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
While I will miss his comedy, I would never want him to have to carry his pain any longer than he was able to cope. Depression is a monster.
I grew up in Marin County not far from where Williams did, he was of my generation. I know many people who happened by chance to meet him in their comings and goings in Marin and in San Francisco and all of them – all of them – said that Williams was always courteous and kind to people who just wanted to say hello, or to say few words in appreciation of his movies or his comedy performances. It is not often that people handle fame with grace and kindness.
Besides being a great talent he was a good person too. We’ve lost a lot here.
@C. Clavin: I didn’t really get depression either until I started taking antidepressants for anxiety. (The same class of meds works for both, apparently.) Antidepressants can cause depression or make depression worse before they kick in, so for the first time in my life I found myself clinically depressed for a day.
I think “depression” is the wrong word for it, or at least people have been using it to mean “constantly sad.” You’re not sad when you’re depressed. What happens is you can’t take joy in anything. You can find things funny but you won’t laugh at them. You can find something emotionally uplifting, but only in a cold, rational way. Something can taste good but it won’t feel rewarding to eat it. The company of other people won’t help, and can be a burden if you’re trying to hide it. Everything just seems dull and lifeless.
Thankfully I only had it for one day as a side effect of a drug, and it wasn’t severe. Can’t imagine having it all the time. If life doesn’t have life in it, suicide might seem reasonable.
@IMDB: I remember back when photos actually took two hours to develop, consarnin’ whippersnapper balderdash harrumph. 🙁
(By the way, love your Quotes pages.)
I’ll tell you what depression is like – fog. I can tell you what fog looks like (sort of), but the experience of being in the fog isn’t that of seeing fog, it’s that of not seeing anything else. No landmarks, no loved ones, nothing to get your bearings off of. It’s nullity. The nice thing is when the fog lifts (and it can) it’s almost like you don’t remember the experience.
Some drugs for anxiety, depression, or sleep disorders can cause or intensify depression. Any drug that affects your brain chemistry is serious business. Stopping taking a drug that affects your brain chemistry is serious business. We kinda know how the brain works, but we don’t exactly know what individual pharmaceuticals do, or which ones at what dosages will help a patient. Take this stuff seriously: starting, stopping, changing, timing, interactions. Get all your meds from the same pharmacy – the computers will let you know if there’s some possible interaction.
And remember, successful treatment can result in suicide. When you’ve really bottomed out in depression, you can’t make a decision to do anything. Sometimes people have their first taste of emotion and mobility on their way out, and that’s what gives them the impetus to kill themselves. See a doctor who interacts with you more than just writing prescriptions. Nothing wrong with medications if you take them seriously. That’s the bottom line with all of this: take this stuff seriously.
If you know that you don’t get it, then don’t call it “the coward’s way out.” That is a horrible, callous thing to say about anyone who was struggling with a deadly disease.
@pinky — All very well stated. It’s also important to note that brain chemistry changes over time and, with those changes, the effects of the drugs can change as well. This is an incredibly complex issue.
In the case of Mr Williams, I suspect he was probably bi-polar (given his general manic affect and some of the illegal drugs he choose to self medicate with). I’m told that as bad as “standard” depression is (and trust me I understand that), the swing feels even worse for someone who has experienced manic highs.
Saw this fellow on TV when Today aired (live?) in the ’50s.
Lighten up on Clavin. In 1973 when we were in our early 20s my best friend sucked on the wrong end of his .22 rifle and blew his head off. He did it because his girlfriend broke up with him!
He was a damn good guy and a decent human being. The pain he caused those who loved him was immeasurable.
I was mad at him for a long time.
Some days I still am.
Damn, Clavin, that’s cold.
Imagine two knights battling a dragon.
In the light of early morning, the first knight catches sight of the dragon, and the runs away without even fighting, screaming at the top of his lungs.
Would you call that knight a coward?
In the light of early morning, the second knight catches sight of the dragon, lowers his visor, and charges. He fights that dragon for hours. The knight’s horse is long dead. His armor is blackened with soot. He’s fighting with a small knife because his dagger, broadsword, and mace have all broken against the dragon’s scaly hide. The knight, helmetless, can barely breathe in the smoke and fire all around him. And STILL THE DRAGON IS UNSCATHED. The knight, exhausted, his lungs filled with acrid smoke, his body bearing the marks of tooth and claw, drags himself away from the field of battle, sobbing.
Would you call that knight a coward?
Robin Williams fought his dragon half a century. Would you call him a coward?
@Matt Bernius: Tough to tell. A cocaine binge is the closest thing to a self-induced bipolar mania.
@Pinky – Completely correct. But most bi-polar folks I’ve know would do anything to sustain the creative mania and keep as far away from the depression as possible.
Depression affects, what, maybe 5% of the nation? Should they all take the same route?
Accepted; the depression which leads to suicide is very real…and while I don’t get it…to those afflicted suicide can certainly seem like the only option.
Regardless; to view death as an acceptable alternative to life is just wrong. You’re entitled to your own opinion. That’s mine. I’m sorry it strikes you as callous. The reason suicide seduces those it does is that it is simply easier for them than the alternative. It’s easy and it’s selfish…whether they are rationally capable of seeing it or not.
Neither of your knights took their own lives.
@Tillman: Two Hours! Unless you had an extremely expensive Land camera, film was dropped of at the Rexall Drug Store, they sent it to a lab and the photos were picked up days later.
It’s a metaphor. Dragon == depression. Running away from dragon == taking your own life.
“I heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.” — Watchmen
I would never use the words selfish or cowardly to describe a suicide.
All I can add with respect to this subject is this: looking from the outside in, one rarely knows what a person is going through, that is, what could possibly move them from deep depression and anxiety to suicide. Where is the rubicon beyond which there is no return? We just do not know. I believe that no matter how much we think we know, people are complex, people are incomprehensible.
It’s a bad metaphor.
I’m certainly not the first.
The Catholic Church teaches that suicide is a grave act, and that it’s a mortal sin if done with full knowledge and full consent. But what degree of knowledge or consent is there when suffering with mental illness? My thinking is that yes, suicide can be a coward’s way out, but not all people who commit suicide are cowards.
For your metaphor to be apt…the 2nd knight, in spite of having survived a 25 year fight with the dragon and having a loving bride of 3 years and 3 children who loved him dearly and millions of other knights and townspeople who adored him, became so beguiled by the dragon that he stripped off all of his armor and dropped all his remaining weapons and went running into the dragons lair.
Y’all are saying…well yeah, but it was a dragon, so it’s OK!!!
And I’m saying you come back and fight the dragon again. And again. Because someday you might slay the dragon. Or maybe you’ll never do more than get it to cower in it’s cave, or maybe the struggle will rage for another 25 years. But you don’t just go running into the lair. You just don’t.
It’s actually a surprisingly adept metaphor. Your response demonstrates that you just don’t understand the beastly indomitability of the dragon. And that’s ok. Someone who hasn’t faced the dragon can’t ever really understand it’s true nature.
Just, you know, don’t pontificate about what you (self admittedly) don’t understand.
Well said. That guy just sucks on all levels, but having a total lack of empathy for Robin Williams is just pathetic. I lost a teenaged cousin a few years ago who had a bad case of schizophrenia. He couldn’t stop hearing voices in his head and killed himself when it became too much.
No one was dumb enough to label this a coward and selfish act and we are actually more hopeful that he had finally found peace.
I remember something else. A few years ago, a friend’s ex-boyfriend took his own life. Thos man, in his early 20s, slit his wrists open and left behind a note saying that he could not bear to go on without being with my friend.
I was pretty passed at the guy. And I did consider him something of a coward. But on reflection, I don’t think his suicide was the cowardly act. I despise him because he tried to pin the deed on my friend, rather than accept his responsibility.
Oh my…I had no idea…I think I’ll go grab a razor and draw a warm bath…
After reading a bit about research into comedians’ mental health, I think Robin Williams has dealt with depression and addiction for most of his life. And it was a long life. Robin Williams was 63.
He deserves credit for keeping his life together as well as he did and for as long as he did. He didn’t just wake up one day and say, “Oh, I’m depressed” and then kill himself. Every day for years — decades, even — Williams woke up in the morning, faced that beast in the eye, and went forward with his very public life. By all accounts, Williams constantly made people laugh, and he gave generously of himself to make others happy. Perhaps he hoped that by giving light to others, he could keep the darkness in his own soul at bay.
At the end, for whatever reason, it wasn’t enough. Williams succumbed to his depression. As far as I’m concerned, Williams successfully — and bravely — fought that depression for much of his life. And unlike Clavin, I can’t call Williams a coward simply because his strength flagged.
Contrary to what you believe, it takes a lot of courage to kill yourself .
If you would ever seek knowledge instead of spouting off bullshit every day, you would know that
And that’s why someone does it every 40 seconds. Because the world is so full of brave folks. Like the teenagers whose boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with them.
Oh…and try not to confuse your own opinion with knowledge.
Calvin, why don’t you just kindly shut the fuck up?
You’re in Jenos level troll territory here. Stop being a tool.
What C. Calvin’s responses best demonstrate is that for many mental illness is still not considered on par with traditional physical illnesses. I’m cure C. would never suggest that someone who succumbs to cancer was a “coward” or “weakling” who didn’t fight hard enough.
But when someone succumbs to a life long battle with depression he’s a “coward” or “weak.” In other words, despite all facts the contrary, Williams wasn’t dealing with a “real” life threatening illness. He should have just thought “happier thoughts.”
No wonder, despite how many times you hear platitudes like “its ok to be suffering,” people don’t feel comfortable talking about personal struggles with serious mental health conditions like prolonged depression out of fear of being stigmatized.
Please stop digging.
Give it a rest.
It’s not an opinion moron, its a Fact. Youre the only shithead on here condemning Robin Williams you attention seeking twat.
Go to any website and read about suicide and you’ll learn it takes a lot of courage to take ones own life. As usual, you don’t wish to understand or learn anything, but just rant your usual gibberish.
Let’s go whack a couple of his nearest and dearest, then he might get an inkling.
Seriously, Clavin, how old are you? 20-30? 30-40? etc.
When people say getting old is hell they mean it in more ways than one.
The depression didn’t asphyxiate Williams.
Would someone on deaths door, due to cancer or heart trauma, trade it in for depression?
I don’t buy the analogy.
By Williams own description he fought against “jumping” for years. Yesterday he didn’t.
If I go out and get hammered and kill someone with my car because of alcoholism will it be excused because I wasn’t weak…I was mentally ill?
Then you’re an ignorant fool, who is ignoring first hand testimony from multiple people, in this very thread.
I’m gonna echo Mr. Watson and ask you to kindly, pretty please with sugar on top, shut your god damn mouth.
Pray tell…how does whacking my loved ones explain anything…except the grief Williams family and friends are suffering now because of his action?
Holy shit, Cliff. You’ve reached impressive levels of assholerie today. Well done, I guess.
Like Cliff, I don’t “get” depression on a personal, visceral level. Some of you have provided explanations or metaphors (Tillman, Pinky and JWH) that make more sense to me than any I’ve read before.
My half-brother committed suicide when I was, oh, 13 or so. He and my father were estranged (because my brother’s wife was insane and falsely accused my dad of awful sh*t he’d never do in a million years, and my brother bought it), so I barely knew him. I only saw the impact on my dad and others. For that, I held some bitterness towards my brother for a while. He had two kids. His wife drank herself to death within a couple of years, leaving two orphans (amazingly, both turned out well due to yeowoman’s work from my otherwise disfunctional sister). I distinctly remember deciding he had been cowardly.
I’ve revised that, though not totally. I had a limited view (especially since his wife refused to show anyone the suicide note), and my judgment was based on that limited view. Thus, it’s flawed or at least incomplete. So I no longer consider my brother to have been cowardly.
I was a fan of Robin Williams. Specifically, his mania. If I had to pick 1 performance, it would be a dead heat between Good Morning Vietnam and (seriously!) Aladin. It’s sad to know that the very thing that made him so funny to me was probably a key part of his problem. Over at LGM, folks were saying they had a hard time watching him b/c they could see the manic/depressive stuff and they knew what they were seeing. I, since I didn’t, got to just enjoy it…
Obviously you’ve never met anyone who has admitted that they are tired of fighting cancer either. Clearly you think they’re a coward as well.
Either depression can be as serious as a physical disease or is can’t. You clearly don’t believe it’s as dangerous. That honestly says more about you than it does about anything else.
I guess you probably don’t think that mental illnesses such as depression can disable people (i.e. prevent them from working). After all, if they really wanted to work they could.
Do you support extending disability benefits based on mental illness? Or are all those people just a bunch of whiny fakers?
Both “courage” and “a lot” are subjective values. By definition…opinions. As is “moron”, moron.
Don’t ever go into the lair.
Actually, you have offered a lot of *objective* evidence on this thread to support the argument that you are (a) really ignorant on this topic, and (b) being a royal asshole about it.
I endorse spending far more on research of mental illnesses. Maybe then we can prevent more tragedies like Mr. Williams taking his own life far too soon.
No, I am going there. A great point from the article you just linked to:
According to the views you’ve expressed here, clearly these people are cowards — right?
I mean they are choosing not to fight any more.
FYI…You just violated your own policy.
You’ve already spelled out the answer – they should just feel better, because they’re not facing a life threatening illness.
After all, as you’ve bravely proclaimed, Mr Williams is a coward and not a victim.
@Rob in CT:
Incidently, re: my brother. A week or two before he took his life, his anti-depressant prescription was altered (IIRC, doubled. Prozac). When Pinky said such things are serious business, he’s absolutely right.
Actually, I humbly submit that you have provide us with more than enough objective evidence to back up my use of that specific label as a statement of fact versus an ad hominem.
And the fact that you are doing a Jenos level of topic switch suggests that you might be realizing that this is the case as well.
What, are you trying to work the refs now? YOU? Come off it, Cliffy.
*glares at JWH*
Why do I have to be the metaphor? Huh? =P
@C. Clavin: Just like my former stepsons. Doesn’t listen to a goddamned thing I say.
Change your name to “Fluffy Dragon,” perhaps…
So your position *is* that someone who “gives up” on fighting cancer is “weak” or a “coward.”
If that is the case, then I truly pity you. And I have nothing more to say to you.
Don’t listen to me…listen to Jim Valvano:
@Rob in CT: Rob – yeah. It could have been the wrong pill for him, and messed up his head. It could have been the right pill for him, and gave him some energy and focus, but the only thing he could focus on was ending the pain. It could have had no effect whatsoever on him. I don’t envy psychotherapists.
What the hell, man?
You are entitled to your opinion. If you want to have a negative opinion on this subject and those who suffer from it, that’s on you. Free country and the legitimacy of your views is a debate for another time. But have some freaking respect and social grace to realize this is very sensitive subject and maybe, just maybe, your opinion isn’t one to be vocalized at this time and place. Are you that person that goes to funerals and curses out the corpse too?
Many people think suicide is selfish since you’re “leaving people behind”. It’s just as selfish to expect someone to live in agony so you aren’t deprived of their company! It’s their life, their pain, their choice – they aren’t rejecting you, punishing you, deliberately hurting you, ignoring you, abandoning you, trying to screw you over…. They just lost the fight. It’s not personal, it’s not cowardly, it’s not anything but the end of the road.
@KM: Well done.
Yeah…OK…good last words.
Anyone “discover” anything today about whether or not water is wet? That’d break some new ground for those of us who never noticed it before.
Let me suggest a little lesson in empathy.
Go to your local hospital and into the ocology ward. Find someone with final stage cancer and give them that little pep speech.
Better yet, give that pep speech to their relatives who have had to listen to that individual wailing in pain.
Then after that, head over to a hospice or two and call them all quitters for taking control over their lives and trying to die with dignity.
My mom went thru it earlier this year.
I’m trying very hard to give Clavin the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think he’s deliberately trying be malicious or cruel – it’s just the view he holds is callous, thus are his words. He is not alone in his opinion – sadly, this was the prevailing attitude for a long time (and still is for some). It takes time for a culture to come around from a misguided point of view and epiphanies are precious and rare.
Please don’t take this as a personal attack but it would be wise to take a moment to consider why no one’s taking your side on this. Kindly take a moment to reflect on how your words are being viewed and why they’ve provoked such a response. Maybe you will reconsider your views, maybe not but it’s always worth noting for personal growth. Good luck and good thoughts!
Shep Smith succumbs to the empathy police…
Now, I think Mr. Williams would appreciate this:
I think a better metaphor would be someone abandoned out in the middle of the ocean with no equipment. Obviously their best course is to try to swim ashore. Equally obviously, if they’re far enough out, they’re going to drown before they make it to shore.
It is a good thing to encourage people to fight as hard as they can and to celebrate the ones who make it. But that does not mean the ones that didn’t make it were cowards or were being cruel to their families. Everyone has a limit to their endurance, and if they are far enough out, they will eventually succumb exhaustion, regardless of how much reason they have to keep going.
You all take my side. Society takes my side. We spend bubkis on mental illness…which in spite of everyone’s claims we know next to nothing about. Huge numbers of vets suffering from PTSD and/or depression live under bridges because we just don’t give a fvck. Yet Robin Williams kills himself because his 2 divorces cost him too much money and a TV show he only did for money got canceled and you are all very sad. And you say he fought the good fight.
Take a look at yourself.
Well, the man isn’t exactly a paragon of manners to begin with…..
Yes, this is a major problem. Yes, we need to deal with this. No, society is not doing everything it can and should be @&^#&# ashamed of itself. No, we don’t know everything about mental illness nor do we claim to. Yes, he’s getting more attention because he’s a famous person with an issue that Joe Schmoe wouldn’t. No, it’s not fair. Yes, he fought the good fight because depression is a major bitch and everyone who has it does so just to keep breathing. Yes, it’s sad since a human being died and that’s always cause for a moment of sadness. No, we don’t know why he did it and you’re just assuming because he’s wealthy that’s what his problem was.
No, we are not taking your side on this. A broken clock may be right twice a day but it’s still wrong the rest of it. You are currently acting like an ass and trying to justify it with pointing out the above facts. Their validity has nothing to do with your abrasiveness. None of them excuse your rudeness and general douchebaggery on this thread.
You’re asking if someone with cancer or fatal heart problems would trade it for something that perfectly physically healthy people kill themselves over having?
That’s, uh, one interesting question. I don’t, uh, know how to answer that one. It seems like the answer should, err, be obvious but I can’t seem to grasp it.
Anyone dropping in on OTB for the first time today and reading this post might get the mistaken idea that anyone who doesn’t toe the Party Line here takes a drubbing.
@ C. Clavin
Seriously dude, stop digging.
@Pinky: Especially since we’re still just chimps doing brain surgery with a meat axe in these circumstances.
My own experiences have made me realize that we don’t know what we’re doing, and simply throwing stuff at the wall to see what will stick. I was lucky with the second medication, and even luckier that it fixed what turned out to be a temporary condition. (When the side-effects got to be worse than my memory of the original affliction, I went off them, and discovered luckily that my brain chemistry had been rewired in the interim.)
And as for those who say that suicide is a coward’s way out: the Japanese and the Romans would disagree with you.
That maybe 10-15% of those afflicted kill themselves over having.
Guess I’m feeling kinda contrarian.
One more comment & I am out of here. Around Marin County, which was his home, Williams was known as a generous, kind, and thoughtful man who was unimpressed with his own celebrity. Right now the entire community is in shock, my mother was near tears yesterday. There really is a lot of love for the guy, and this is not a place where you will get love simply for being famous.
There is a line I like that I have been seeing on Facebook quite a bit recently – Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.
From the time I pulled his casket off the Hearse till I threw him in the hole I swore at my buddy Joe for not quitting smoking those goddamned cigarettes. He was diagnosed with cancer after Christmas 2008. He was dead in four weeks. He was my other best friend for 35 years.
He was 58. I’m still mad at him too.
Actually Pythagoras thought that are only so many souls…and suicide wastes them.
@grumpy realist: Don’t make me yell at you. You go off them gradually, with a circle of doctors standing around you watching for the slightest unnatural glint in your eye.
Glad it did work out for you.
If you can’t do that just leave them alone.
If people would just stop trying to bother each other it would be a first step toward paradise.
So was that intentional humor? Pythagoras was *Greek* living prior to the Roman Empire. @Grump was referring to the *Romans.*
On the note of glorifying suicide, you could also count the British Public School set who tended to romanticize it as the “honorable” way out of scandal. To that point, it’s interesting to see the rather large underlying difference in approaching “honorable” suicide in British Detective fiction of the early 20th century.
@Pinky, you’ll probably dig this, but it’s worth comparing the way that Dorothy Sayers handles it in the Peter Whimsey books and G. K. Chesterton handles it in the Father Brown stories.
In a number of Sayer’s tales, the disgraced murderer is given the space to “do the right thing” and take their own lives to spare shame falling on others. Sayer’s characters are largely protestant and members of the Upper echelons of British culture.
Contrast that to G. K. Chesterton’s (a converted Catholic) approach. In a number of Father Brown stories, the eponymous Priest gives the murderer a chance to “do the right thing” and turn themselves in — only to have the killer choose to take the public school route. Father Brown, being a Catholic, see’s this as the worst possible outcome, as the murderer can be redeemed through living out his sentence. However, there is no hope of redemption for the person who kills themselves.
The current headline splashed across CNN’s website (which states the explicit details of Robin’s death in all caps) has got to be one of the most crass and tasteless displays from a “news organization” that I’ve seen in the past year.
I know that maximizing the number of clicks/ad impressions is the reason these websites exist, but the sheer lack of respect for Robin, his family, and their overall privacy is pretty galling.
Sad to see that CNN has devolved into something that is barely distinguishable from a sensationalist rag.
dammit…those old statues all look the same to me.
Cardinal sin, Clavin. You’ve swiftly become a bore.
Move over Rover. Let Louis Jordan Take Over
@Vendrell: Yes, CNN’s level of credibility…I saw this one about a week ago:
Of course Greeks were OK with suicide, along with the Romans.
OK…now I’m just obfuscating.
If you knew how much time I’ve spent studying Greek and Roman Architecture…you would begin to sense my embarrassment. Dumb…dumb…dumb……
In Beetlejuice suicides become menial civil servants in the afterlife.
Reviewing the thread, I want to address something that you wrote in hopes of better representing the position that many of us have been trying to communicate. You posed this question:
I’m guess you’ve never dealt with clinical depression. One of the problems is the profound difference between feeling *depressed* and being in a clinical *depression.* Unfortunately, until you experience the later, you assume its something like the prior.
The thing is you imagine that in that trade, the magical body switch will enable the person to “fight” their depression. That isn’t what it’s like to be clinically depressed. Taking Mr William’s life as an example of what countless people live everyday, that isn’t an *easy* fight (even for those with countless resources). He serves as an example that, even after countless decades of professional success, his brain chemistry and emotional issues remained insurmountable.
To answer your hypothetical, if I had to choose between living a happy life that ends with cancer or living most of my life in a clinical depression, I will chose cancer every time. Seriously.
@C. Clavin: http://youtu.be/8-cFtSPIF4Q
Ya gotta do something when you are competing with a bottom feeder like Fox News.
@Pinky: Yes, indeedy. I withdrew based on the schedule figured out by my doctor.
It had weird side effects, though. I had been warned about the “drink one beer and you’ll be under the table” (a side effect which incidentally lasted for another 10 years.) What we hadn’t realized was the “don’t get up too quickly because you’ll pass out” side effect.
As said, brain surgery with a meat axe.
P.S. The medication, not the withdrawal. I finally got sick and tired of the “get up from sitting and pass out” effect. WEIRD stuff!
Just for fun:
I’ll take a different tack:
He was 63. He had very little more to accomplish in his field. Maybe a couple more juicy roles, but his stand-up days were about over. His kids were grown. His dues had been paid and then some. He had done some good, entertained a hell of a lot of people, been by all accounts a decent guy. For his entire life he fought serious mental issues and had to struggle constantly with booze and coke.
So if he decided it was time finally to check out, that’s his call. He wasn’t a depressed teenager, he was an accomplished, grown man. It’s his story, he was the author, and if he wanted to type the three hash marks at the bottom of the page, that’s his right.
Talking about suicide as a good or bad choice, a cowardly or heroic choice, all of it implies a normally-functioning decision-making capability. The only thing we can be reasonably sure of in this story is that he didn’t have that normally-functioning capability.
@C. Clavin: So are we comparing all people with depression with all people with any heart problems or cancer? ’cause some heart problems are minor arrhythmias and some cancers are benign, and some depression is manageable. If we’re talking only heart transplant or full chemo cancer, we need to compare to severe depression.
I don’t think the survival rates are as favorable in those circumstances.
@michael reynolds: Yeah, I’m all in favor of euthanasia for old people past their prime. 🙂
Hell, Chris Buckley wrote a whole book about that idea.
I’ve been checking out ice floes to float away on.
I think Mr. Williams was his version of normal, however unbalanced that might be. No decision is ever entirely clear of the taint of mental illness or neurosis or kink, and at some point you have to stop trying to norm people and accept that they are what they are – especially people in the arts. You can’t have “normal” and “Robin Williams.” I don’t think he was available in that particular flavor.
I am sorry for your loss. I’ve had two grandparents go through that in the past couple of years and it is a lot to work through watching and trying to help them decide when enough is enough. I can’t imagine if it were my parents rather than my grands. That makes your rather startling lack of empathy here all the more difficult to understand.
I’d add the theoretical sciences and higher maths, though there is an element of arts there as well.
People are sometimes surprised that people at the extremes are actually extreme. Actors spend their days trying to stop being themselves and substitute the invented emotions of a fictional character. Comics by virtue of their intimate knowledge of their craft deny themselves thereby the pure enjoyment of the very thing they are committed to creating. Writers walk pretty close to the edge of schizophrenic behavior with the constant background dialog between people who don’t really exist. These are all people bending their own brains, deliberately undermining the comfort of reality, bringing on deliberate hallucination in order to do what they do.
None of that stuff is normal. Some of that is behavior that will sure open the door to mental illness or drug abuse. The kind of guy who spends his day distorting reality is going to have a receptive mind when offered a substance that will do the same.
I don’t know if that’s what it’s like for a theoretical physicist because my brain does not stretch far enough to get a handle on what they do.
I think that pretty much sums it up in any field. When people are pushing the limits of imaginative thinking having a different view of reality is almost a forgone conclusion. Some people are able to cope with that and have close to what people call an normal life and other people it breaks, too often tragically. Humans are amazing in both their resilience and fragility.
My comment was in response to one of Matts comments.
Unfortunate, perhaps. Poorly formed for sure.
Michaels comment is interesting in that it accepts a decision…rational or otherwise.
Many today wish to absolve any decisions, because…dragon.
What I have learned today, on this thread and in personal conversations, is that for some people someday the decision becomes between the abyss and the abyss. There is no decision. There is no option.
What I still believe is that many refuse to accept responsibility for the decisions that lead to someday. A process leads to the abyss.
I make decisions about food and alcohol every day. If I’m lucky I’ll never get to someday. But if I do it will be because of my decisions…and the dragon. Decisions affect the dragon and the dragon affects decisions.
A friends son has a genetic condition. He probably won’t live thru his teens. He doesn’t have a choice. He doesn’t get to make decisions that make a difference.
90% of people afflicted with depression make choices every day. People on this thread made decisions that saved their lives. My friends son doesn’t have that luxury.
Mr. Williams made decisions for decades. Many that society absolved in him and not in others, because…nanu nanu. That Vet under the bridge? Not so much.
Did he have a choice yesterday? Was he part of the 90% or the 10%? We’ll never know. You don’t know. I don’t know.
If all of that is callous…I’m sorry. If it’s just totally misguided…well, some ships turn slowly…but they do turn.
Did she die?
She passed in late April.
That our society too often fails the least among us, including the mentally ill, does not excuse your lack of empathy.
Yes. I suspect suicide is primarily motivated by emotional pain and anguish.
That may not always be the case.
I got to know Olivia because she was my dead buddy Joe’s girlfriend. He was a quadriplegic who spent his entire life in a wheelchair after contracting polio as an infant.
One of his therapies was to get to a swimming pool as often as he could. Olivia was at the pool as she was suffering from degenerative disc disease. A particularly despicable malady that caused her intervertebral discs to slowly disintegrate.
When they met she could no longer work at the Delta Air Lines call center in San Francisco. At first diagnosis Delta did everything they could to accomodate her as she wanted to work. Since she could not sit in one position for long they constructed a work station where she could stand and function. Her pain got worse.
She could not stand. She could not sit. She could not lie down. Her least painful exercise was to walk. And walk she did. Day and night. Blocks and blocks along the Streets and Numbered Avenues of the Sunset District. When the fog would roll in off the Pacific Ocean she said it helped endure the pain…which continued to get worse.
I do not know how long this went on but I think it was at least 10 or 12 years. She had several surgeries to fuse the vertebrae together where the discs had completely been destroyed. The pain got worse.
The Airline let her work from a terminal at home where she had a hospital bed and could take brakes to minimize the pain. This was in the ’80s.
The pain got worse.
She tried everything. Conventional medicine. Physical therapy. Drugs. Acupuncture. Alternative therapies. Her discs continued to disintegrate and her pain got worse.
She could no longer work. Even from home. No more surgery she said. It was just too debilitating to have even more vertebrae fused together.
Joe told me she had been threatening suicide for a while on my visit spring 1990. Apparently he and others had talked her out of it more than once.
The 1989 earthquake motivated Joe relocated to Chico CA. After 18 years in The City he feared the next shake might get him.
Olivia had to stay as the services that helped her cope were not available elsewhere.
It was ’92 (?) when Joe called me to tell me Olivia was dead. Despite his long distance pleas and the appeals of her friends at home she ingested a cocktail of drugs that she had so many times said would kill her in less than an hour.
Her friends found her and got her to the hospital where she lingered two days before she died.
At least her pain ended.
May she Rest in Peace.
Yes. I suspect suicide is primarily motivated by emotional pain and anguish. That may not always be the case.
I got to know Olivia because she was my dead buddy Joe’s girlfriend. He was a quadriplegic who spent his entire life in a wheelchair after contracting polio as an infant. One of his therapies was to get to a swimming pool as often as he could. Olivia was at the pool as she was suffering from degenerative disc disease. A particularly despicable malady that caused her intervertebral discs to slowly disintegrate. When they met she could no longer work at the Delta Air Lines call center in San Francisco. At first diagnosis Delta did everything they could to accomodate her as she wanted to work. Since she could not sit in one position for long they constructed a work station where she could stand and function. Her pain got worse.
She could not stand. She could not sit. She could not lie down. Her least painful exercise was to walk. And walk she did. Day and night. Blocks and blocks along the Streets and Numbered Avenues of the Sunset District. When the fog would roll in off the Pacific Ocean she said it helped endure the pain…which continued to get worse.
I do not know how long this went on but I think it was at least 10 or 12 years. She had several surgeries to fuse the vertebrae together where the discs had completely been destroyed. The pain got worse. The Airline let her work from a terminal at home where she had a hospital bed and could take brakes to minimize the pain. This was in the ’80s. The pain got worse.
She tried everything. Conventional medicine. Physical therapy. Drugs. Acupuncture. Alternative therapies. Her discs continued to disintegrate and her pain got worse. She could no longer work. Even from home. No more surgery she said. It was just too debilitating to have even more vertebrae fused together. Joe told me she had been threatening suicide for a while on my visit spring 1990. Apparently he and others had talked her out of it more than once.
The 1989 earthquake motivated Joe relocated to Chico CA. After 18 years in The City he feared the next shake might get him. Olivia had to stay as the services that helped her cope were not available elsewhere.
It was ’92 (?) when Joe called me to tell me Olivia was dead. Despite his long distance pleas and the appeals of her friends at home she ingested a cocktail of drugs that she had so many times said would kill her in less than an hour. Her friends found her and got her to the hospital where she lingered two days before she died.
At least her pain ended.
May she Rest in Peace.
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
The moderation queue robot has a screw loose.
Every day I decide not to use cocaine. But it’s not much of a decision because I’m somewhat ADD and cocaine has never affected me like it does most people. It’s easy. Now, ask me to pass up a berry pie? No. That pie is going down. So, am I strong or weak? Strong because I can take or leave coke, and weak because I love me some pie?
IIRC it was Tolstoy who talked about the success of an army often coming down to one man deciding to fight or run. And on Monday that man might fight, while on Tuesday he runs. Is he a hero or a coward? Depends whether it’s Monday or Tuesday.
We are complicated creatures. Most of what we do every day is unnatural to us as animals. Homo sapiens has been around for a hundred thousand years. All of recorded history is less than a tenth of that. The industrial age is the last two tenths of a percent. The car and the cellphone all happened in the blink of an eye. This is all koyaanisqatsi, every minute of it. Our brains still think they’re hunting mastodons so it’s not surprising that homo sapiens has developed some kinks. We defy easy categorization into strong/weak, right/wrong, brave/cowardly because each of is is all those things at different times.
Now, think about what it takes to be a young man and decide that you’re going to spend your life trying to cause strangers to convulse with laughter. You know it’ll be hard. You know the odds are long. You spend years doing open mike nights at 2 AM. You die again and again and keep coming back. You make 50 bucks for an appearance you drove 10 hours to make. But you don’t care because something inside your head is pushing you to make people laugh. Is it a weak man who walks out in front of 30 drunks and tries to make them laugh? I don’t have the balls to do it.
If that’s the life you chose, you’re probably not wired like most people. Robin Williams was wired like no one else.
I think it’s too easy to look at man and decide he’s X or Y, this or that. Some men really are that simple, but most aren’t. And that level of complexity rises by orders of magnitude when you’ve got a guy like Robin Williams. Did he take the easy way out? Relative to what and whom? Do you know what his daily battle was like? Do you know how many times he fought?
There is something out there that could happen to you that would leave you desperate enough to say, “that’s enough.” Me too. All of us have our individual breaking points. If you ever reach that point, it will be your business, your decision, and it will be irrelevant whether anyone calls you a coward, and really no one’s business to judge you.
I’ll add this from my new position as “officially old”: I have often regretted my harsh judgments, and never regretted compassion. Even when I was played for a fool because of it, I have never regretted giving someone the benefit of the doubt.
So my approach toward this is that Robin Williams seemed like a good man trying his best. I’m going to assume he fought as long and as hard as he could. And that is all we can ask of any man, right?
In a complex multi-verse…and to try and make sense of any of it in an online comment thread is ridiculous.
May he rest in peace.
@OzarkHillbilly: Yes this is exactly how it feels for me.
You just get tired of waking up everyday.
I’m sure Williams had his reasons.
@michael reynolds: Lovely, Michael.
Now that is cowardice: the artist’s excuse. I’ve known too many disciplined artists and free-wheeling mathematicians. Too many accountants who were more creative than painters I’ve known. Too many alcoholic foot doctors and sober musicians. This is the VH1 Behind the Music lie, that any great act of creativity has to destroy you and everyone around you. It’s bunk. For every Schumann there’s a Brahms.
@Janis Gore: Chantix isn’t an antidepressant. It is however potentially deadly and some claim it causes mental illness such as Bipolar Disorder
@Sue: What is it’s mechanism?
I just watched One Hour Photo. It was very creepy, but it was excellent, and it features one of Williams’ finest performances. He doesn’t do any of his comic shtick at all, and he very nearly disappears into the role. Unlike a lot of stalker movies, it is told largely from the point of view of the stalker, rather than the people he is stalking. Another movie I saw where he played a villain (Insomnia) was more or less a routine thriller; this, however, transcends the genre and emerges as the psychological portrait of a disturbed man. It reminded me of Taxi Driver, down to the ambiguous ending that leaves it up to the audience to decide whether what we’re seeing is real or simply a fantasy in the deranged mind of the protagonist.
I frankly didn’t realize Williams had the range he displays in this movie. He had a weakness for substituting cheap sentimentality in place of real emotion, and it’s part of what made his work in movies like Jack and Patch Adams so hard to take. (I remember Roger Ebert commenting once that Williams seemed to use his comedy as a mask, to distance the audience from the real person inside.) Not in this film: even though his character is creepy as hell, and the movie doesn’t take the easy route of turning him into some kind of tragic hero, Williams projects such turmoil that there are moments when you really feel for him. Along with his work in The Fisher King, it suggests Williams had some understanding of the mentally ill, the way their brains are wired and how they see the world. I can’t recommend this movie more, for those who haven’t seen it.
Ah, ha! His wife has announced that he had early stage Parkinson’s.