Yesterday would have been, had he still been alive, Robin William’s 64th birthday. But of course tragically he isn’t still alive, as on August 11th last year he took his own life. An act which shocked millions of people and which begged many a question concerning depression and suicide. As well as how someone so famous, someone so well known; for his sense of humour, for his comedy, for spreading such happiness, could get to a place where he would take such a step.
Questions which in many ways, or so it seems to this writer, were like the rolling credits at the end of one of his numerous movies. Noticed but hardly considered by many and soon forgotten by many many more. But questions – none the less – which so very much still require asking and which each one of us would do well to consider.
Robin was, as I said, such a gifted entertainer, such a gifted actor, such a gifted comedian. In many ways he was such a loveable clown.
And that, it has to be said was one of the problems. For that is the way we all saw him, was it not? That is the expectation we had of him and the expectation we placed on him. That is what we expected to see and thus, perhaps, all that we looked for.
And whilst I recognise that Robin was to so many of us ‘a celebrity’ and thus a detached and almost untouchable figure. I find myself asking the questions, “But what about those who aren’t so detached, or so untouchable to us?” “What about our friends, our family, our neighbours?” “What about our work colleagues, school or college mates?” “What about that guy or that woman at our church?” Are we not perhaps also guilty of placing expectations on them? Are we not perhaps also guilty of seeing them in certain ways and only seeing or looking for what we expect to see?
You see in many ways I can relate to Robin Williams. In many ways and to a lot of folk perhaps and to some extent, I am that clown. I am that entertainer.
In many ways I am that joker. And yet, just like Robin, I also struggle with depression and yes at times, and I am not afraid to admit it, with suicidal thoughts.
And in truth, I am that friend, that family member, that neighbour, that guy at church, who many folk see a certain way and yet never venture to ask or look beyond what they first see or what I first present.
And thus they never get to know about – or have an impact on – that depression, or on those suicidal thoughts which often plague me.
That is not to say that ‘one or two’ don’t know about my depression or my suicidal thoughts. But what about all the others? Is there a reason (or reasons why they remain oblivious to these struggles?
For some, I think, it is a case of being too busy to have time to ask, or to look beyond what they first see.
For others, it is perhaps a fear of rejection or of being shot down in flames and having their caring – their compassion, thrown back in their face.
For some it is simply not knowing how to approach the subject. And yet for others, perhaps it is a fear that actually if they do dare to ask – if they do dare to venture beyond what they first see with someone – that person might do the same in return and then they would have to be honest and face the truth in themselves?
But what ever the reason for never venturing beyond what we first see, something just has to change if we are to truly tackle and combat such issues as depression and suicidal thoughts. In truth we cannot simply sit back and leave it to others or rely on that person’s faith or their strength of character or their will power. And we cannot be lulled into – or allow ourself to remain blinded to, or indeed simply be persuaded by – the masks that others put on in order to ‘survive’, or ‘exist’ or to please others.
In truth we must be more daring.
Daring to venture beyond the face of the clown.