I’m not sure how this article will fit in with CultureMass’ mission and the topics of other articles on here, but as I sit here, crying my eyes out over someone I’ve never met, it was obvious to me that it needed to be written.
It was this sentence from CNN that did me in: “Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams apparently took his own life at his Northern California home Monday, law enforcement officials said.”
Although an official report has yet to be filed, coroner investigators suspect “the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia,” according to a statement from the Marin County, California, Sheriff’s office. Marin County deputies responded to an emergency call from Williams’s home in Tiburon, California at 11:55 a.m., reporting “a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing.” Williams was pronounced dead at 12:02 p.m. “An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office,” the sheriff’s statement said.
Williams’s most recent wife, graphic designer Susan Schneider, released a written statement to CNN that said, “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken…As he is remembered, it is [the family’s] hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
Williams made at least two trips to rehab for drug treatment, one of which occurring this summer. His media representative, Mara Buxbaum, told reporters, “He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this difficult time.”
Robin Williams’s death marks the second celebrity death this year that’s the possible result of poor mental health; Philip Seymour Hoffman died in February after years of battling drug addiction. While I absolutely hate that these two wonderful actors became casualties of their own individual wars, I can only hope that — once proper time has been taken to grieve — the media will use this as a way to open up the conversation about the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Neither of these men had to die prematurely; help is out there, and it’s important that those who need it seek it.
A subset of my bucket list includes a list of people I hope to one day meet before I or they die. Robin Williams was put on that list back when I saw a commercial on the Disney Channel that showed him working behind the scenes on Aladdin, for which he voiced the character of Genie. Robin Williams was as big of an influence on me growing up as anyone could have been. He taught me the importance of humor in Patch Adams; his work in Dead Poet’s Society has a lot to do with why I’m a poet today; but I believe Jack, the movie where he played a young boy with a strange disease that would cause him to age four times faster than normal, was the movie that taught me the most of all.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of Robin Williams. I hope they can take comfort in knowing that he brought joy and laughter to so many of us. The world became a little sadder today when he left it.