In Memory of a Childhood Hero — Robin Williams, 1951-2014

I was sitting in the back of the car, having just seen the film Hook. I was fourteen years old and had spent the previous summer at a writing camp, so my thoughts were all on creativity and the spirit that drives it. The movie had filled me with a sense of promise and hope, as though I could accomplish anything that I dreamed. This sense came largely because of the well cast role of Peter Pan, who was portrayed by Robin Williams.

A few years earlier, I would regularly sit and watch the classic television show Mork and Mindy — Robin Williams would in my opinion dominate the average episode, filling it with his enthusiasm. I remember watching the show and feeling validated as a person who was regularly labeled weird by even my friends. It was okay to be different or strange, Mork and Mindy told me.

When I read yesterday that Mr. Williams was found dead in his home and that it was suspected that he committed suicide, my immediate reaction was to think that it must have been a hoax. I have seen far too many people share links on social media to alleged reports that people have passed away only to find out that they linked to satire sites or just plain cruel sites that exploit the fact that people will click in incredulity if they see that a celebrity has passed away. I then read further and saw that the sites sharing the story were all legitimate news organizations.

“This couldn’t have happened, could it?” I asked myself. I was coaxing my son Chaim to eat his macaroni next to cheese and felt devastated as the news sank in.

I spent much of my youth watching Robin Williams in various roles, and never had a clue as to who he was “in real life” — that is, I had no idea that he deeply suffered from depression and that was what most likely led to his taking his own life.

This made me think about friends and family — how well do we really know them? How many of our friends are suffering and we have no idea that it is the case because they are doing so silently and not wanting to “cause a problem?”

Helpguide.org has an excellent guide called “How to Help Someone who is Suicidal“. Candace Jordan of the Chicago Now blog wrote a piece about recognizing a person who has suicidal tendencies that you can read here.

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