Many Comics Like Robin Williams Struggle With Depression
The world was stunned Monday afternoon by the death of Robin Williams. The acclaimed actor and comedian was widely loved and the outpouring of grief over the loss is clear through the many small impromptu memorials that have taken place to celebrate Williams’ life and career.
Perhaps the most shocking part of the tragedy for those he left behind is the news that Williams took his own life.
Robin Williams worked regularly as a dramatic actor, but he will always be remembered for how he made people laugh. Often, we assume the comedians around us are the happiest people we know. They bring us joy. They lift us up when we hurt. Too often, we forget those people also hurt and experience their own struggles.
One of the most common myths about depression is that it has an identifiable appearance. It is assumed that those who experience depression should somehow look depressed or appear inconsolably sad. The truth is depression often hides behind smiles and laughter.
This plays out on a large scale with celebrity comedians. We don’t get to see them behind the scenes, so it is easy to envision them as constantly smiling and laughing jokesters. Because we don’t get the opportunity to see behind the mask, we never hear about their struggles.
Those who were close to Robin Williams have said he struggled with depression for years. But, his persona was his mask.
Our friends and loved ones don’t have fame to hide behind, but they still wear their masks. Those who struggle with depression may wear the mask of the comedian or the tough guy. Most often, they just wear a mask to pretend that everything is normal.
Thankfully, we have the opportunity to see “behind the scenes” if we are active to show opportunities for support. With patience, acceptance, and a careful eye for the warning signs that someone close to you may be struggling, you can position yourself to be the help they need and to intervene if needed.
The most important thing is to be watchful. While it is normal to be sad or experience grief, far too often we ignore or dismiss signs of real depression. Our society often belittles the condition by equating it with sadness or feeling down, but depression is much more complex and dangerous.
If you are struggling with depression or you know someone who is, please reach out for help. We are always available to provide support and treatment for those in need. Don’t let depression claim another life.