How Robin Williams Woke The World Up To The Reality Of Mental Illness

Perhaps some people were put on this planet to show others something that they don’t want to see. At least that is what some people are telling themselves to try to make sense of the apparent suicide of funnyman and family man Robin Williams. When this iconic comedian exited the planet, his departure certainly left a gigantic hole: in the entertainment industry, in the lives of his colleagues, friends, and family, as well as the hearts of his millions of fans all over the world. Many people were left shaking their heads, trying to understand why a man as loved and adored as Robin Williams would take his own life.

However, since his sudden and untimely death on August 11, a new focus has been placed on mental health. Certainly, those in the media have tried to explain away Williams’ suicide by offering up every conceivable explanation, from Williams being possessed by demons to having financial troubles to even citing his recent Parkinson’s diagnosis, as reasons why he decided to take his own life. After all other “rational” explanations are taken off the table, however, we are forced to take a hard look at the fact that Williams’ death has forced us to consider the harsh reality that is mental illness, a reality that is often overlooked.

Psych Central has reflected on this reality citing “the lack of understanding the general public has about mental illness and the stigma that persists surrounding such conditions,” while in the same breath asking us all to ponder why it is that we can so easily embrace and empathize with those who present with a physical disease like cancer or other diagnosis, but are so reluctant to see mental illness for what it really is?

Some people believe that everyone is put here for a reason, and for some, Robin Williams’ initial calling seemed rather blatant. At the end of the day, however, perhaps his everlasting footprint holds with it a much deeper impact. The San Francisco Business Timesreports that San Francisco itself has since launched a new mental health support line with the hopes that it can provide some type of empathy, peace, or outlet for those suffering from a mental illness that could potentially lead to the prevention of a suicide. Williams was a longtime resident of the Bay Area and beloved member of the community.

While the new Mental Health Triage Warm service is not claiming to be directly related to the untimely demise of the beloved actor, it does aim to help more than 20,000 people in the first four years of operation by providing support “before they reach a crisis point” in their lives. The new hotline is designed to augment an already existing Suicide Prevention Hotline, which receives nearly 70,000 calls on an annual basis.

Despite the shock and overall sense of loss that accompanies Robin Williams’ passing, which still seems all too raw, it seems that there is one flicker of hope. Perhaps Williams’ death will shine new light on the reality that is mental illness and help to gain more exposure for all those who are working so tirelessly in the field of mental health. Perhaps his death wasn’t in vain after all, even if it is forcing us to consider mental illness in a new way; a way in which we were previously unprepared.

[Photo credit: The Guardian]