Monday, August 11, 2014
People around you are hurting
This post ain't really about Robin Williams, but we'll start with him.
Tonight I remembered a photograph I saw in a magazine from the 1980s -- People magazine maybe. A stupid television show called Mork & Mindy had made its young star, a comedian named Robin Williams, famous very quickly. A few years later after he became famous, he became a father for the first time. It was the kind of story for which People existed.
And this photograph I remember was very beautiful. It was the famous comedian looking like an ordinary young father, walking hand in hand with his toddler son, away from the camera, down a pier towards a pond.
That photograph was the first thing that flashed into my mind tonight when I heard about Robin Williams being found dead this morning. I didn't think about his movies or his drug use or the way he smiled at the camera in the music video for "Don't Worry Be Happy." I thought about that picture of him with his son, a small boy reaching up to hold his hand.
We lose more people in our country to suicide than car accidents. I've lost an alarming number of friends and people I know to suicide. More people suffer from addiction and/or depression than we seem to realize, and even those who ask for help and get the care they need have a rough and uncertain road ahead of them; too many suffer in silence. Their friends and family often don't know what's happening, or don't know what to do. Sometimes the person in our midst who takes their life is someone we never knew was suffering that much. Sometimes, it's the person who seemed to have come through it and seemed to be doing great.
And I've noticed suicide is very hard on those left behind, who are often bewildered by the loss and surprised by their own reactions. It is easy to understand why some people feel very angry at people who kill themselves. Suicide usually isn't like a candle being snuffed out, but more like setting off a bomb in the middle of one's family and friends.
Instead of binge-watching Robin Williams movies, maybe we can think about this. Maybe the media can write about human suffering and how we can help each other instead of trying to delve into the lurid details of Mr. Williams's death.
Something as simple as checking in with somebody we know, somebody we know has gone through hard days, or we just haven't spoke with in a while, just "hi, thinking of you, how are you?" might make a bigger difference than we realize.
[Image: I couldn't find the picture I was talking about. The boy's name is Zack, and I found a picture of him as a grown man standing next to his father.]