A Year Without Robin Williams

By: Alicia M. Blanco

robin2

On August 11th, 2014 I was flying home from a weekend in Arizona. When I landed and connected back to social media, the first thing I saw was “RIP Robin Williams”.. “actor commits suicide” all over my Facebook and Instagram feed. My body went numb. I was in total shock and disbelief.

Like many of you, I felt like I lost a close friend. I grew up watching and loving him and all the beloved characters he brought to life. It was devastating news to come home to, to say the least. Equally devastating is how mental health and suicide is treated and talked about in society. It isn’t until a celebrity commits suicide that society gives this topic any real attention. This needs to change.

It was on that day last year as I was driving home from the airport that I knew I wanted (and needed) to start my blog and dedicate it entirely to mental health, research, awareness and advocacy. I wanted all of the Robin Williamses of the world to know that they were not alone. It was my hope that by reading stories and articles from other people who have similar FEELINGS and experiences with depression (either personally or within their families) that people could begin to feel a sense of community and belonging. I want them to feel acknowledged, seen and heard. I desired my blog to be a place of hope where people could relate, with no filters, no stories of perfection – just pure and raw honesty.

I could sit here and list off all of the numerical statistics that show you how much suicide has increased over the years. But let me just cut to the chase. IT’S BAD. And every year it’s getting worse. Suicide has no specific victim- no group is “safe” from the impulse.  What’s worse, is that although many people give subtle “signs” that they are contemplating suicide, many people leave no sign at all.

The death of Robin Williams greatly impacted us because on the outside it would seem like he was a relatively happy person. (With a sense of humor like his, it seemed impossible not to be happy.) He also had a dream career, lots of money, fame and the respect and admiration of his fans around the world. This is the part that scares me the most – the amount of people living today who seem like happy people on the outside, but who are really deeply in serious trouble. Earlier in the year I reposted the story about Madison Holleran, a girl who appeared to have it all, (based on her social media, that is.) She ended up committing suicide, despite the utterly happily filtered Instagram life she portrayed to the world.

Depression is a silent killer. Unlike other illnesses that are physically visible, depression is something that builds up on the inside of a person’s mind and body and takes over control. It’s manipulative and even has the power to give off the illusion that everything is fine on the outside. It can also trick its victim into being insecure about sharing how they are feeling with someone.

It’s so heartbreaking, even one year later on the anniversary of his death, to accept that he was suffering so deeply, and quietly…And that’s what breaks my heart: Suicide is preventable – and the responsibility is entirely ours. Together we can each participate in changing these statistics. Enough is enough. Suicidal thoughts and attempts wreck the lives of millions every single day, and over 40,000 die from suicide every single year! Robin Williams’ death was just one of the hundreds who took their own lives on that day. What have we done since then?

We need to take a good hard look at the way we treat people. Our actions and our words matter. When we ask someone “how are you doing?” how many of us are genuinely interested in the response? Do we really care how someone is really, truly doing? Do we really believe someone is as happy as their Facebook or Instagram feed suggests? Are we participating in random acts of kindness for our family, friends and even strangers? Are we ourselves slipping into episodes of depression because of how much we compare ourselves to the “picture perfect” lives of others?

We are so “plugged-in” to our phones and computers these days that we have completely disconnected from community and heartfelt communication.

The way we talk about depression and mental health research & advocacy can re-shape the future. It can be as simple as changing the way we use our words; The words we use to talk about suicide; The words used in media to broadcast it; The words used to build someone up, or tear them down; The amount of time we spend using words of affirmation and encouragement. Bullying. Cyber bullying. Racism. Hate. Addressing depression. Make no mistake about it – the words we use matter.

“Our words are the ground note. Words are the least expensive, most valuable tool we have to educate, to turn the tides of public opinion, to affect real change. Let’s stop conversations that destroy lives, start conversations that save lives, and redirect conversations that distract us from what really matters.” – Dese’Rae Stage

robin1

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-784-2433 or visit save.org

Advertisements

Waving Goodbye to Robin Williams

by: Alicia M. Blanco

ROBINWILLIAMS

I just love this picture of him. It’s crazy that behind his one of kind smile and his contagious laughter was so much pain. It still doesn’t seem real to me. Its taken me several days to even accept it and gather up the composure to write this blog. How could one of the funniest comedians in the whole wide world who made me laugh my entire childhood, commit suicide? It’s just not fair. He’s gone. Just like that. No warnings. No signs. No goodbyes. I mean sure he’d had issues with drug abuse in his past, but he was over and done with all of that now, wasn’t he?? He had the ability to make all of us laugh so hard our stomaches hurt. He was the man.

That’s why this sucks SO bad— the fact that while he spent his whole life making everyone else laugh and feel alive, inside he was broken, depressed…and ultimately dying. He ended his life in such a tragic way and it broke hearts around the world. I know my heart is truly broken…

This is exactly WHY I want to see a huge wave of random acts of kindness. YOU have the potential to save someone’s life just by being kind to them, asking them how they are doing, (like REALLY doing), complimenting their smiles, encouraging them, spending actual time with them, writing them a handwritten note, ANYTHING. I can’t help but to wonder when was the last time someone had genuinely asked Mr. Williams how he was REALLY doing. Ugh.

It’s wild to me that someone can give off the impression that everything’s okay, just like Robin Williams did, when really they’re screaming on the inside.

WE NEED TO STOP ASSUMING!! Just because someone seems okay, maybe they’re really NOT.

I personally know a lot of men and women who appear to be happy, but yet have candidly opened up to me and let me know that they’re not as happy as they portray to the rest of the world. And I think that’s really brave of them to be so honest with me. With the world of social media we live in, it can be really hard to admit that there’s an inner battle going on. Maybe Robin Williams didn’t want to admit how depressed he was. No one likes to be judged… especially when they feel pressure to uphold a certain upbeat image. We live in a world of filters. We gatta look and appear to be at our best, right?

In reality, life is a journey of ups and downs though… and sometimes the journey includes a lot of heartache, rejection, unsuccessful attempts, shut doors, “no’s”… all of which can feed depression, mental illness, and even trigger suicide. It’s just a downward spiral and if we don’t start doing something about it, small as it may seem, we’ll continue watching people lose their battle to the disease. Because that’s what it is you know… a disease.

I’ve always just been told that no one wants to talk about it and that instead, we should read some self-help books, take your meds, “get over it”, “look on the bright side” and “count your blessings.” …… and while that all sounds like positive steps moving foward, it’s also just not the easiest thing to do when you’re suffering in the dark. As someone who has had to be in extensive conversation with mental hospitals, doctors, social workers, insurance companies and beyond, I can tell you right now, there is MAJOR work to be done.

I’ve been wanting to start this movement in the way we think and talk about (and conquer!!) depression for years but I always felt like there was so much shame on the subject. Even personally: I have a very close relative of mine who has suffered with manic depression bipolar disorder (just like Robin Williams) since he was 16yrs old. At this point in time I don’t have his permission to disclose his name or share his full story, but I’m hoping that I will in the very near future.

I can’t sit back and see another secretly unhappy person end his or her life when it could’ve been prevented by love.

So let’s keep going with this HUGE wave of random acts of kindness everywhere! I know the wave may start off small, but as more and more people catch on and begin to pay it forward, I honestly believe with all my heart that we can truly change lives and even SAVE LIVES by helping the silent sufferers of the world feel better, feel loved, feel seen, and to cope with their darkness.

Afterall, we are called to be a light in a dark place.

Thank you Robin Williams for being such a light in mine.

xo,
Alicia