Goodbye Robin

Robin Williams grew up in Chicago, but finished college in California, where he was voted the funniest, but least likely to succeed.

Goodbye Robin

Robin McLaurin Williams was born in Chicago in 1951, the son of Laurie, a model, and Robert, a car company executive. He grew up in Chicago, but finished college in California, where he was voted the funniest, but least likely to succeed. How wrong they were!

He studied political science at college, but a class in improvisational comedy led to a scholarship at the Juilliard School (New York) where he was classmates with Christopher Reeve and William Hurt. His early career saw him working as a stand-up in San Francisco before finding fame as Mork in the TV sitcom Mork and Mindy. According to the Washington Post, producer Jerry Paris claims they had interviewed about 50 Morks for the show’s precursor, Happy Days, before Williams walked in, dressed in rainbow suspenders,

“When he sat down, I asked if he would sit a little differently, the way an alien might. Immediately, he sat on his head. We hired him.”

And that is the Robin Williams we grew to love – the totally maniac comedian who blew our brains in Good Morning Vietnam with his rat-a-tat humour and crazy leaps of mind. But there was much more to this man, we learned, as he embraced increasingly tender and subtle roles including Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, for which he won an Oscar.

His wife has asked that our remembrance be of the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions. Below we share some of our highlights from his formidable career.

Read Adam Bernstein’s remembrance of Robin Williams in the Washington Post.

Dead Poets Society

Mork and Mindy

Opinion: What can we do?

‘He had been struggling with depression’ is an all too common statement following the death of someone we love and admire. When will mental health be ‘outed’ so we can stop reading this sad side note?

How sad is the death or Robin Williams? A man who has brought so much joy to all of us? A man who had (ostensibly) ‘made it’, yet continued to struggle with mental health demons. In a heartfelt statement his wife, Susan Schneider, asked:

“As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

And yes, that is what we would all like to do – to celebrate his genius and continue to laugh at his quips. But, in doing so, are we going to continue to sweep under the carpet the awful toll that mental health is taking on up to one quarter of our family members, friends and colleagues? When will we be able to talk about mental health issues as they are – an affliction of the mind, just as others have afflictions of the body? Why do we continue to cover up this affliction on behalf of our loved ones as we judge society is not ready to hear the truth? So, at the risk of begging to differ with his grieving wife, I can’t help but wonder if more open discussion of the things which drive such a talented human being to suicide, might not encourage those around them to seek help sooner?

Seeking help or further information

Beyond Blue
Lifeline

Black Dog Institute 

What do you think? Should we mourn this talented man by simply celebrating his genius? Or is a conversation about mental health and how to prevent someone from suiciding more important? Why can’t we do both?





    COMMENTS

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    Sweet pea
    13th Aug 2014
    10:19am
    My heart goes out to Robin Williams and the pain he had to go through all these years with his depression. Only people such as myself can truly understand and feel his pain. All the organisations that offer help and advice read as though it's so easy to get help. I have been writing, phoning, emailing and fronting up in person hoping to find someone who could help me, but nothing. Guess I was put in the 'too hard basket'.
    BrianP
    13th Aug 2014
    11:10am
    Sad but all to often people don't get the help they need.

    Best advice is - don't stop talking to anyone who will listen. The worst thing is to go it alone. Always believe there is an answer. You are too valuable and life is to be enjoyed.
    Renny
    13th Aug 2014
    11:26am
    Keep talking. Don't bury it. We need to get people to realise this is not a human frailty but an illness. I have an anxiety condition. No one gets it and it embarrasses me. I struggle to convince myself I'm not a failure. And it's often the best and brightest who suffer. Yet we're still expected to get on with life and work - it's crap people. And I have supposedly good support. Oh Robin - it's too sad that it ended this way. This is what happens in societies where everything is about image and mental healthcare is a stigma.
    thommo
    13th Aug 2014
    12:20pm
    agreed renny,i have anxiety,for 30 years,will not tell anybody,but avoid situations which i know will increase anxiety.The nurse at our gp was flabbergasted that i had been on xnax for 30 years,covering up the problem she said,she's right,but the gp was content to keep writing the scripts!Now i feel my wife and i should be going on an overseas trip,but that anxiety is still there,buggered my life!!!
    Maca1939
    13th Aug 2014
    11:46am
    This is a very sad occasion for the world that such a beautiful talented person as Robin took his life.
    Here in Melbourne we also have many sad occasions as people who suffer from mental illnesses are treated daily and sadly to say that services have been cut by the government for assisting these people. Something has to be done and done immediately this should be something that is going to bring to everyone the immediate necessity to have services for counseling, services that have been cut within the mental health area re-installed immediately to assist this problem that we are facing here in Melbourne and in areas on the Mornington Peninsula and other areas improved so that we do not have problems and that the services are their for the community who are suffering mental health improved.
    Blossom
    13th Aug 2014
    12:02pm
    Unfortunately some people don't actually realise they have depression. Some won't seek help from a Dr. as they don't want to be put on medication to help to stabilise their emotions while having counselling. It can so easily be caused by traumatic events or caring for a person who is longer able to care for her/himself. Even so if you work and on occasions go out for a couple of hours and you get a phone call from a neighbour to check where you are, because your distressed parent has Dementia and can't remember why you aren't home. It happened to me 3 times. Once I had gone home from work, explained yet again where I was going - to dinner for a special work occasion. I very rarely accepted an invitation for awhile. It was just too hard. I was advised by 2 social workers not to give up work. It was taking a toll on my health too. If I got really sick it was impossible to care for her. It was really difficult caring for myself on such occasions. They did an ACAT. She was legitable for low care. She had been in hospital 3 times in 2 months. I managed to find a lovely Retirement Village that had semi-dependant care equivalent of low care in an Aged Care Facility. I always visited twice a week, sometimes more, one night after work and once on Sunday afternoon. I arranged to pay for and have dinner with her week nights so I was able to spend more time with her. I took her washing home and did that two nights during the week.
    I had to seek help because I developed Anxiety Depression. I was lucky I had very understanding work colleagues, relatives and other friends to support me.
    Young Simmo
    13th Aug 2014
    12:49pm
    All you Goody-Goody 2 shoes stop and think for a moment, he might of had enough and he wanted to get off the train and that is his decision, nobody elses. I know I have my future all planned out and have a very easy gentle way to go out when I have had enough. Currently at 74 I am enjoying my retirement, but if things turn bad, I'm off and nobody can stop me,
    MY DECISSION.
    If he had been 20 something, yes I agree that would be a different situation, but for my money any time after 60 you should be in charge of your own life.
    Minsdad
    13th Aug 2014
    12:52pm
    BrianP, you've hit the nail on the head. I suffered depression and made my families lives miserable. But until I made contact with Lifeline a few years ago I had no idea just what it was doing to me and those close to me. I attend a Lifeline volunteer Physiotherapist once a week and my life is starting to turn around. My Doctor has backed me up as well as my family. This year I made a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as I had been sexually assaulted by a Marist Brother when I was aged 12 & 13. This has lifted a lot from me as I have carried it for 60 plus years.
    Don't think you are alone, help is out there we just have to accept it.
    Polly Esther
    13th Aug 2014
    4:08pm
    Firstly, admittance of a problem. Secondly, ask for help and thirdly allow people to help. I admire your attitude Minsdad and what you have done to help yourself. I wish you all the best and keep yourself pointed in the right direction. Good luck.
    shirboy
    13th Aug 2014
    1:14pm
    I agree with BrianP. Keep talking to people & confide your fears & STAY AWAY from EXCESS alcohol !! It feeds depression.
    Kiwozok
    13th Aug 2014
    6:36pm
    Always sad when the lights of great talent are suddenly switched off. Sometimes the pain is just too hard to bear. I am a parent-carer and I carry enormous pain. My child may not live much past 50 as the meds dictate - I have talked and keep talking to carry on but there are limits - I have decided that I will go when my child goes. It is my choice. I have no home and no savings because of my carer role has eaten up every cent. The future looks bleak but for now I live day-to-day and do give thanks for the good stuff - chin up sorta stuff - but as I said, I will cast off my mortal coil by choice when the time comes.
    musicveg
    13th Aug 2014
    7:36pm
    Everyone will talk about physical health problems to the point we get annoyed, but mental health is swept under the carpet. I believe that a healthy diet not only helps your physical health but also mental health along with exercise. Getting the endorphins working in the brain naturally via exercise and good food can make a lot of difference. Joining a supportive group and not staying home alone when you are down, talk with friends and family or your doctor. We need better services to tackle mental health, it is terrible how many people are suffering when we live so well compared to other countries were there is disease, war and famine. We are lucky but we need to feel it so spread joy and don't be miserable alone.
    Not Senile Yet!
    13th Aug 2014
    11:45pm
    Such a sad ending for so talented and much loved human being.
    As for the Mental Illness LABEL...I beg to disagree with the name tag....most depression is caused by the incorrect chemical mix sent by the body to balance our negative and positive in our brain...note I stated most (Not all).....for depression is a label just like cancer...and below that there are numerous different types!
    However it upsets me that people still think of depression as a mental illness....when in reality it is the body and immune system that controls the chemical imbalance! Such ignorance is appropriate given no one is not scared of it's consequences!
    There are 4 important contributors.....excessive use of drugs and or alcohol.....bad or improper diet.....and lack of consistent daily leisurely exercise......excessive or overload of stress!
    To address these issues on your own is impossible....you need guidance and help!
    And forget the one magic cure....there isn't one.....just as there isn't a set time frame to re-cover.....nor is there such a thing as normal.....we are all uniquely individual....and there lies the Challenge!
    Imagine not being able to flip your point of view from negative to see the positive.....just to achieve balance.....then you are warm....but everyone experiences different versions of how quick the tide comes in and goes out....depending on their specific circumstances.....that's why it is imperative to seek help!
    But please...enough of the Mental Label eh!!!!
    Not Senile Yet!
    13th Aug 2014
    11:56pm
    Added comment....unless you are formally diagnosed as having a Mental Illness.....or a heredity dna....it is necessary to understand that depression is a by-product or side effect caused by the body not producing the correct chemicals to provide a balanced (both positive and negative) view within the brain.
    Pills/prescriptions do not fix this imbalance.....they can only stabilise it temporarily until with help you get your health/life back on track.
    Sometimes this can mean.....a continual re-adjustment of life style and habits......and nothing happens overnight....it becomes a long slow journey!
    The process alone can be full of anxiety.....as nothing is more frightening than loosing control between your own ears!
    Hoping this enlightens and encourages people to seek help rather than ignore it and think you can do it all on your own!
    Here's hoping Robin is at peace now!
    Dukki
    14th Aug 2014
    7:58am
    So much talent . So little time on this earth,
    I c
    Guess just because he make people laugh n seemed to have it all
    ,
    No one knows what. Goes in behind closed doors, n obviously he was a troubled man,
    Dukki
    14th Aug 2014
    7:58am
    So much talent . So little time on this earth,
    I c
    Guess just because he make people laugh n seemed to have it all
    ,
    No one knows what. Goes in behind closed doors, n obviously he was a troubled man,
    Golden Eagle
    14th Aug 2014
    12:01pm
    Having been thru depression, I have used the Beyond Blue website and other counselling groups - which were helpful, BUT I believe in this modern world it is the personal human relationships which are missing. I'd like a T-Shirt which says "I WANT A HUG", as this contact is missing. A dog or cat can listen but the human response is missing. I'll start a site when I finish working full time!!!
    Paddles
    14th Aug 2014
    11:00pm
    When we attempt to talk about depressive illness and those measures that may alleviate it, we find ourselves in a mental labyrinth. Given the innumerable factors that bear on our lives and factor in the different individuals, then the problem is, in my opinion, intractable.

    One poster touched on the basic truth that, until one acknowledges that there is a problem, then there can be no solution. Human nature being what it is, we find many reasons why we don't feel good on any particular day and wouldn't even entertain the idea that something fundamental was wrong with our minds.

    I also find it interesting that nobody has mentioned the gender issue in this subject. It is beyond doubt that men are less likely to open up about mental issues than are women. Indeed, this may be the answer to why more men than women take the "ticket out".
    buby
    18th Aug 2014
    10:07am
    I don't think he suicided, i'll bet with all the meds he was taking , i'll bet something didn't agree with something else, and it eventually killed him. He may have been mildly depressed as most of us doing and usually talking about it helps somewhat.
    Because i a problem where i was prescribed another drug that didn't go down to well and it left me choking. I stopped taking it, and got an alternative from the health shop, and certainly am a lot better for it. Dr. trust drug companies too much, they don't really know how drugs are going to react from one person to another. As our system are all different. I reckon its all HYPE, and They just have to give a reason for his death, without blaming a doctor!!! As i've read a few of the reasons given, and excused how he's got this and that, so if he's taking quiet a concoction, on god knows what reaction it had, and perhaps thats what made his worse. Cause i'll bet he didn't want to give up just like that, he looked tired, but he had more shows like up. I don't believe it was suicide!
    Rose
    21st Aug 2014
    8:06pm
    I liked Robi Williams,I always thought I could hear him crying behind his laughter . I recognised him : because it is the same with me . He presented a happy front ,because he wished to be happy and sometimes he was . But could not help the waves of deep sorrow welling under the smiles. Is that depression? Is depression a mental condition? I do not think so . What makes somebody who loves people to run away from them?


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