Saving Robin Williams

photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc
photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

The funny one may be gone but the zany humor lives on. Many, many people on the plus side of 30, can share a Robin Williams story or two. Like many people, I was immediately stunned and saddened by the abrupt ending of life to such a man that could create a unique way to put joy into people’s hearts without blinking an eye.

We all have our favorite moments of when Williams broke us down to belly-aching laughter. It is painful to know that those moments are behind us now that is has been reported that Williams took his own life. The immediate picture we see in this tragedy is that Williams appeared to have everything many of us would want: fame, peer accolades, family, wealth and a career in which he thrived mightily.

What the comedian and actor’s death reveals to all of us is that all of the material things in the world is not sufficient enough to help us pull through the secret demons of our souls. We all have things we have to fight through to keep ourselves sane and not to fall into a place where Williams never came out of.

There is no one solid explanation to when someone decides to take their own life. It is heartbreaking, a devastation to families and friends that doesn’t always provide answers to lingering questions. According to media reports, Williams was suffering from severe depression. You don’t have to be rich and famous to be in a room full of people and not be heard, to feel inadequate, to think that life is not worth living anymore.

There are a lot of reasons people feel this way. As a teenager, I was there. I was tired of the endless bullying at school and the abuse I endured at home. I grew up with 10 other siblings, yet with all of the noise that we created as youngsters, no one could hear my agony or my pain that boiled inside of me. Here I was with 10 brothers and sisters around me, and yet I felt so alone, my voice silently ignored.

I felt trapped with no way out. At home, I felt like a virtual beating drum to my father’s whippings, which included extension cords, switches (or minor tree branches), leather straps and other creative beating tools. School offered no solace as being ridiculed by classmates became a routine record. So one day feeling like I couldn’t take life anymore, I ditched my sixth period class and walked to the top of my high school’s football stadium and contemplated jumping.

What saved me was thinking about my mother. I couldn’t hurt my mother like that. So I sat down at the top of those bleachers, bawling my eyes out for over an hour, trying to finding something I could hold on to. That is probably what many people feel when they are trying to transition from their depressed state of mind.

It is sad that Williams, despite being one of the world’s best comedians, could not find that something or someone to hold on to before he ended his life. An even sadder fact is more than 121 million people is suffering from some sort of depression, according to World Health Organization.

It is incredulous to think that a gift like Williams, who made a living putting smiles on other people’s faces, could not muster the strength to do the same for himself. But what this teaches us is that we have to get off our iPhones and tablets, and pay pay attention to people.

We must listen to their body language, hear what they are saying, and listen instead of doing all of the talking.  By doing so, we might be able to save the next Robin Williams.

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