Reflections on Robin Williams and Mental Illness

Who was Robin Williams really? The brilliant, inspiring comedian and actor or a depressed man who abused substances? Without ever meeting Robin Williams or anyone who know him-I can say he was both.

Each time, we as a society, lose an amazing person, whether an athlete like Junior Seau or a musican such as Whitney Houston, or an actor like Robin Williams, those of us remaining ask the question "Why him/her"? How could a person with so many wonderful aspects of their life resort to such a permanent solution? What we, as the public, don't get to see is the cost of the brilliance, fame and personal invasion of their life does to person-especially over the long run. Prior, to becoming a famous althlete, artist or actor they were just normal people who grew up with many of the same struggles that "regular" people experience over the course of their lifetime. They bring any and all of those emotions, issues and traumas with them as they move into their life of stardom. We, their fans, only see the side they want us to see. This isn't so different from my clients who deal with depression and suicidal thoughts. Often times, they are able to mask their depression from family and friends until it comes out in destructive ways. This could be self-harm, substance abuse, promiscuity, running away, truency, significant mood changes and possibly suicide attempts.

Although Robin Williams was open about his mental illness and substance abuse...not everyone is. Look for the signs and signals in your children, spouses and loved ones before you are left asking "Why him/her?"

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