It’s always sad to hear that a celebrity of our time dies early. Most were first exposed to Robin Williams as Mork, a visitor to Earth from another planet. Williams was a quick wit improvisational actor who was Juilliard trained. Be it stand-up comedy, drama or thriller, Robin Williams fit the part and entertained millions of fans. So why does he die at age 63? Depression may be at the root. Suicide is the cause.
There are strong correlations between genius and madness in artists and actors. It seems the more talented they are, they die too soon. The culprit is depression. The modus operandi is suicide.
Sometimes all that bustling creativity and its presence is masked or a way to mask dishonesty.
A celebrity needs to mask his identity despite his mood or motivation. That can take considerable energy. To regain that energy, many leap at drugs as ways of stimulating a flatline effect. They have the energy to perform.
As Robin Williams approached 60, he may have seemed to lose his sense of timing. In a recent CBS TV series, The Crazy Ones, Robin Williams seemed to be pushing his character to be as funny as he is remembered. Sometimes it worked but often it didn’t. After the May sweeps, CBS cancelled the show. It’s tough and sad to see a genius drop.
A 19th-century actor, Edmund Keane, is famous for the phrase “dying is easy (but) comedy is hard.” Being funny is hard as many comedians will attest. As the sad, forlorn clown, the laughmakers always travel a fine line between humor and tragedy.
Depression is not an end, it is a means to an end. One is actively depressing and even some anti-depressants can’t fix the neurochemicals that are supposed to bring you up. Add the panic of losing it as you age, depressing moves faster and further into the psyches of many performers.
Fortunately, there are many prescription-based medications that help combat symptoms of depression. These need careful control since they act differently on many different neurotransmitters, the chemical balances of depression. Unfortunately, there are many supplements, alcohol, and illegal drugs that help mask depressing symptoms as well. For the intents of saving face or self-preservation, few coping with depression reach points where chronic conditions can be effectively managed. By the time depressed feelings take over, it is often too late.
Many creative people cope with depressing. The problem is that observable symptoms are often disguised from others as well as themselves. Then there’s self-recognition. There are negative stigmas in the perception that depression is an emotional disease. It should be seen as a chronic disease, like diabetes for example.
There are probably many more creative people out of the limelight that have been prone to severe depression. There have been poets, composers, musicians, artists, scientists, thinkers, and writers that have occasionally had depression symptoms.
Depression is normally not seen as a condition with a high morbidity rate. As a celebrity icon of our generation, it is difficult to speculate what caused Robin Williams to take his own life. Acts of suicide claim the lives of about 30,000 Americans each year. About half affect men between ages 25 to 65. About 15% of people who are clinically depressed may commit suicide. There are many more out of the system who deal with their moods differently but still die.
Many religions forbid suicide as an attempt to kill oneself. Yet even some of the devoted religionists found moral turpitude in forging mass suicides. We have seen it happen in many cults. Indeed, depression and suicide are not merely a sign of modern times. It has had enough prevalence in human civilization that codes of law found suicide to be a punishable offense.
It is hard to figure what exactly Robin Williams might have been thinking. He was still making movies and projects will be released posthumously. Sometimes the problem just might be that he is hired because he’s Robin Williams, an acclaimed actor. Yet, secretly, Robin Williams guessed that both character and name were becoming an illusion. At the end, he wanted to ride slowly into the sunset. It’s sad and tragic.
In death do we honor. Robin Williams’ gave us many laughs and many superb performances that (hopefully) will be cherished by other generations and our own. His impressions on us through his talents and creativities deserve our honor. If we are to gain something more from his death, it might be an appreciation of how creativity and depression are associated. Tragedy is easy but comedy is harder. We should attempt to stabilize our moods in appropriate ways, and practice comedy inwardly and outwardly. It may be very hard.
We will mourn Robin Williams and revere the memories he has given us. Like all others who succumb from depressing, it’s difficult to find comedy in death. That may be why tragedy is easy and comedy is hard. For those that enjoyed his talents, this brings a tearful laugh. His death is depressing. Let’s remember his life.