Much like the rest of the world, I woke to the tragic news that the much loved actor and comedian, Robin Williams, took his own life. The newspapers are reporting (off the back of a police statement) that he was pronounced dead after being found hanged in his home. The coverage of his death got me thinking - is it really possible that the cause of any death can be suicide? I'm not talking about some philosophical debate on how one dies, but more the cause over the result. When we ask how someone died it is often the quick, simple response which makes up the reply. Most of us will know that Freddie Mercury died of AIDS when in fact it was ultimately Pneumonia which caused him to breath his last breath. My father died of Amyloidosis, with underlying Myeloma; cancer to the rest of us...more accurately an infection after a marrow transplant. What I'm getting at here is that Robin Williams died due to (what is now being reported) long term depression.
Suicide carries with it so many negative connotations - we often think of those who take their lives as selfish, not mindful of those who love them as well as those left behind (in this case, millions of us). What is not fair however, is that Robin Williams may be labelled as such - a selfish individual who has chosen to die by taking his own life. I never knew him, but I'm pretty confident in my guesstimation that his death was a direct result of an affective disorder over pure selfishness. Depression is often not taken seriously enough. Comments such as "just snap out of your sadness" or "why are you depressed when you have everything you need?" are comments which reiterate the lack of understanding when it comes to this disorder known as the common cold of psychology. It is not as simple as just "snapping out of it", and if possessions and wealth bring happiness to those who possess them, then why was Robin Williams not "happy"? I doubt he was short of money or possessions. Something inside me feels it is inaccurate to report that he died because he killed himself; surely depression is the root cause and it should be reflected as such in newspaper headlines?
Why is it that an illness which has 121 million sufferers at any given time, which is increasing at a rate of a 20% annually in the Western World with regards to diagnosis and is rife among parents of new-born children so misunderstood? Is death as a result of suicide really possible without mental illness as the root cause?
RIP Robin Williams