Robin Williams


Like many of you I find myself thinking about Robin Williams a lot in these days and hours since we heard of his death by suicide on Monday, August 11th. The news is hard to wrap our minds around because it’s hard to imagine that a man who made us laugh and smile so joyfully could also suffer profoundly from depression. It’s hard to imagine the man who made so many others happy found himself so sad.

You’ve probably got your own favorite Robin Williams character. My favorite is when Robin was the voice of the Genie in the 1992 Disney animated version of Aladdin. Robin was out-of-this-world good. Hysterical. It was the first time I experienced subtle adult humor wrapped in a child’s movie and I found it brilliant. As the story goes, Robin was so off-script that new animation had to be created to keep up with his creative extemporaneous style! God bless Robin.

Shortly after Robin’s death his wife said, “I hope Robin will be remembered by the laughter and smiles he gave us all, and not by the way his life ended.”  On the one hand I understand her point. God bless her, that’s an important message. I too sincerely want and hope people will remember Robin’s creative genius. On the other hand, I also hope his death will be a reminder to us all that there’s more work yet to be done. The work of medicine and counseling and advocacy and brave acts of compassionate love, acceptance and understanding as we reach out to one another.

Yes, Robin was known to have had an alcohol and substance abuse issue, but many professionals are now saying those addictions were most probably Robin’s attempt to self-medicate. Not to get high, but to take away the pain. How much pain? Well apparently enough pain that he would end his own life. For people who know nothing about depression it’s hard to imagine anyone can be in that much pain. For those who know depression first-hand, it’s hard to imagine how Robin lived so long with such profound pain. They understand the pain. First-hand.

When someone breaks their leg we understand their NEED for a cast.

When someone like me who has heart disease is in trouble, we understand their NEED to take certain medicines and have regular check-ups.

When someone’s appendix is sick, we understand they’ll most likely NEED an appendectomy.

When someone’s pancreas is impaired and their blood glucose levels are too high, we understand they NEED to inject insulin.

And we don’t think anything more about this.

But when someone has a mental health illness there are so many stigmas attached to seeking treatment that those who NEED help are often too traumatized by social mores and cultural norms to get the critical help they NEED. I’m not saying this was the case in Robin Williams’ life. I’m saying this is often the case for many people you and I know. They NEED our love and support and non-judgment so that they can responsibly take care of their own mental health NEEDS.

PLEASE let’s normalize the mental health discussion. Thankfully I think we are slowly, almost imperceptibly, beginning to understand that a broken brain is as normal and ordinary as a broken leg or broken heart or a sick appendix or pancreas. There’s no difference in the truth that something is broken – another part of the body. That’s what the brain is – another part of our body. We help all other parts of the body because it’s understood that help is NEEDED. We’re slowly realizing the brain is just like the leg, the heart, the pancreas and the appendix. When body parts are sick or broken they get the treatment and help they need. Our brains deserve that much – and more – care and respect, for we all KNOW how critical our brains are to our overall health and wellness. Critically important.

Ya know what else we can do? Please re-read this blog post and consider these 5 tips to help you love someone who has depression: Some Tips to Help You Love a Friend Who Has Depression

It may help save someone’s life. You may help save someone’s life.

Like you I’m praying for Robin and his family and friends and for all who suffer from depression. I’m also praying for all of us to have the courage to help others when we can.

Thanks for all the love and good you all do every day. Every day you inspire me. Every single day.

Peace friends,


Here are some resources for you or those you love who may be struggling with depression:


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  • Kathy McCleary says:

    Thank you friend…truer words cannot be spoken. We are, I do believe, making some progress but so much more is needed. Thank you for being one of the voices in the journey.

  • Rose says:

    Thanks for posting this – it’s spot on. I loved Robin especially in the recently re-released video where he visited and helped Koko the gorilla to laugh again.

  • Mary Burgess says:

    You have the courage to say this and we love you. Thank you and praying for you as you do for us.

  • Sally says:

    Thank you Chuck for your thoughtful words on such a tragic loss. Robin Williams was an amazing character not just in the roles he played but the man he was and the heart he showed. It was as if we all knew him personally. I loved him in the St Jude’s commercials with the young cancer patient, and my favorite role of his was Patch Adams. Fear Is such a powerful weapon and love is our best defense, unfortunately learning to love oneself with all our flaws is a battle at times . I pray we can each help shine light in the darkness for those around us living with fear and depression, and resist the desire to judge. None of us ever know another person’s entire story. Thanks again!

  • Marianne says:

    Oh, Chuck. I literally have lost sleep over Robin Williams’ death. I cry for those I know, those I love who battle anxiety and depression each and every day. If it is possible in any way for this tragedy mean something, it is as you have said–to bring this discussion out of the shadows and into the light.
    “Oh Captain, my Captain” may God bless and keep you. May He make His light shine upon you . . . and may God hold you always in the palm of His hand.

  • kathleen shaw says:

    This has been so helpful. I have always been uncomfortable when someone shares they are suffering from depression afraid that I would say the wrong thing.
    Thank you,Kathleen

  • Bill Zaccagnino says:

    Chuck, Thank you for this post. I’d like to think that Robin Williams’ death would open more eyes to the seriousness of mental illnesses. I hope you are right that society is moving in that direction. These illnesses affect many more than people want to recognize or want to believe. These are very serious illnesses, as Williams’ death shows. It’s time we pursue a solution with the same seriousness.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • Judy Davis says:

    Your Blog was Right On!!! Thanks.

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