Robin Williams' Birthday - The Day You Should Talk About Suicide
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The laughing face of Robin Williams is something many of us look back on fondly. It reminds us of the 90s... Flubber, Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji. The character we saw on screen on those trips to the cinema or through a VHS in our front rooms was one of endless happiness; an animated character who was jovial all the time.
Credit: PA images
Then, on August 11, 2014, shockwaves hit every country on the planet when news broke that Robin was dead. Not only was he no longer with us, but he'd committed suicide.
Sometimes, people say that those with depression are always the ones 'you least expect'. The happiest people are 'often the ones with the darkest problems'. I'm not sure how true that is.
Suddenly, people everywhere were talking about depression and suicide. The taboo was briefly lifted as people began to realise that ANYONE could suffer at the hands of this awful condition. Even someone who had millions of pounds, a happy family and success in every aspect of his life. He had depression. Not only that, but it had led to suicide.
In World's Greatest Dad, Robin's character, Lance Clayton, looks straight at the camera and says: "If you're that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember, suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems."
Sadly, it's not always that easy; Robin's problems were not temporary.
Credit: PA images
Robin Williams' widow, Susan Williams, spoke to People Magazine last year. She said: "It was not depression that killed Robin. Depression was one of, let's call it, 50 symptoms. And it was a small one."
Robin was suffering from a debilitating brain disease called diffuse Lewy body dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Three months prior to his death, he had also been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He'd already begun to show symptoms such as stiffness, slumping gait and confusion.
Susan added: "If Robin was lucky, he would've had maybe three years left - and they would've been hard years."
Obviously, all of this is an educated guess on Susan's part. All we know are the facts. Robin had depression and had suffered for many years.
The thing is, if you suffer from mental health problems, you often feel very alone. You feel like you don't want to bother other people with your feelings.
The sad fact is that men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide. So I feel that today, on Robin's birthday, is the right time to speak out. Talk to someone. There will be problems that you feel that you can't face right now, but you can get through them.
People do care; people want to help. Not just your friends and family. There are helplines and charities whose sole job it is to get you through. Use them.
Mental health issues in men are NOT a weakness. The sad fact is that men under the age of 45 accounted for 76% of all suicides in the UK in 2014.
Statistics from the CALM report show that roughly half of all the 1,000 men and women surveyed said they had experienced some form of depression, yet women were much more likely to seek professional help or confide in a friend. 74% of women who had suffered from depression said they had spoken to someone about it, while only 53% of men had done the same. 69% of men who had suffered depression said they preferred to deal with it themselves.
Reach out to The CALMzone. Its helpline and web chat service is open 5pm to midnight, every day of the year.
NATIONWIDE: 0800 58 58 58
LONDON: 0808 802 58
You can contact Samaritans on a free phone phone number - 116 123. Alternatively, you can email [email protected]
I'll leave you with a quote from Robin himself: "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."
Words by Mel Ramsay