I was 8 years when Robin Williams first made me laugh. His appearance on Happy Days as Mork from Ork spoke deeply to my third grade sense of humor and gave me a whole lot of joy. Since then, he has delivered the gift of laughter to me and millions of others in consistent and generous portions. What is more is that he punctuated the stream of hilarity with poignant and compelling roles in such films Dead Poets’ Society and Good Will Hunting. Every age I have been since my introduction to Mork, Robin Williams has provided meaningful and life-giving experiences. There is a part of who I am now that would never have been given space to develop without this man. His life’s work was replete with messages that opened up parts of me.
His final message breaks my heart. The heart of the 8 year old boy in me breaks because that little boy still wants to hear about the zany culture on the planet Ork.
As a mental health professional and educator, I also see the death of Robin Williams through the lens of depression. Williams, like millions of others, did not sit down one day and make a choice that he would like to wrestle with depression, but rather it rolled in like dense fog obscuring his psychological clarity or perhaps slowly crept in like black mold infecting him and his ability to psychologically breathe. Depression is an insidious experience that no one chooses. Sometimes it goes away all on its own like a common cold, but sometimes it is psychological Ebola that requires immediate, intense, and sustained intervention or else it is fatal. The problem is that there is no way to know on the front end whether it will heal on its own or will progress toward death.
Depression is always a serious situation. It always deserves meaningful and professional attention. The death of Robin Williams has further reinforced within me how important it is for people with symptoms of depression to go and get those symptoms checked out with a mental health professional. Getting symptoms of depression checked out by a mental health professional is no different than getting an x-ray on your arm to check for a break after an injury. It is just a smart thing to do.