Robin Williams’ sudden death over the summer shocked and devastated people all over the world. The beloved American comedian and actor committed suicide on Aug. 11 by hanging himself. He was 63 years old. Williams often joked about his struggles with alcoholism and manic depression in his comedic acts and admitted that some of his best-loved characters had an aspect of mania about them. According to his representative, he was battling depression for decades leading up to his suicide. However, most people couldn’t fathom that someone so full of life could kill himself.
“Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes,” Williams told Terry Gross on the NPR radio show Fresh Air in 2006. “Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.”
Depression is an increasingly common issue in contemporary American society, especially among teens. It is the third leading cause of death in young adults ages 15 to 24. Unfortunately, many people with depression do not receive the adequate care they need to recover, often being told to simply “snap out of it.”
Depression is a disease that many people don’t fully understand. The term “depression” is often affiliated with “sadness.” This correlation could not be more wrong. “Sadness” is a temporary emotional condition that can be alleviated with some support and encouragement. Depression is a serious medical illness characterized by constant feelings of worthlessness, loss of interest in activities, fatigue, and suicidal thoughts.
“People who are depressed are in an altered state of who they are. They may start getting poor grades, stop hanging out with family and friends, and stop participating in the activities that they used to enjoy,” Shantel Buss, a counselor at South Eugene High School, said.
Despite being a devastating illness, depression is treatable. With therapy and antidepressant medication, it can be relieved to a great extent. But we need to remember that being depressed is not a weakness. If someone is depressed, it is not their fault. Our society often stigmatizes the idea of depression, making people feel ashamed and reluctant to seek the help they need.
“When people are depressed, it’s very hard for them to realize that treatment could help them,” Buss said. “They feel so horrible and they just want it to stop, to the point that they want to die.”
Robin Williams’ heartbreaking death is a reminder that depression can affect anyone, no matter how “OK” they seem on the outside.
If you or someone you know needs support, South has a mental health consultant who can help. Brant Stuart gets students and their families connected to counselors. Talk to your school counselor so they can refer you to Stuart.