Alexander McQueen, Kurt Cobain, Deborah Laake, Sarah Kane, Robert Enke, Gary Speed and Virginia Woolf. For some, this could very much be a collection of people who would be part of a list for ‘the ultimate dinner party of all time’ where restrictions, such as death, count for nothing.
Now add Robin Williams to that list and you may see it in a completely different light.
Each and every one of those names in the list above were victims of suicide that has been linked to their depression. And they are just a sample. But, what has become obvious in the wake of Robin Williams’ death is that there is too much focus on the word suicide and not enough focus on one of the leading reasons behind it; depression.
For those who don’t know, depression is not a mental illness that just “comes and goes” which someone can just “break out of” at a moments notice. It is persistent, with each episode able to last for weeks or even months. There is also no such thing as a “cure” and even if you think you have managed to overcome it can come back into your life at any time. Without any warning. And the cycle starts again.
“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny… and everything in between. But he was one of a kind” – Barack Obama
Several high profile presenters have gone on record to criticise what Robin Williams did, citing cowardice, the aftermath and what he has left behind as their reasoning. In America, the most high-profile was Fox News’ Shepard Smith (who has since apologised), whilst in the UK, talkSport’s ex-footballer Alan Brazil was the one slandering Robin Williams’ name. The same Alan Brazil whose colleague – another ex-footballer Stan Collymore – has come out and publicly talked about his battles with depression in hope of showing that those who do suffer are not alone.
When these people made these comments there was widespread outrage. Twitter went into a frenzy whilst status’ and posts on Facebook were being shared as if there was no tomorrow. Fast-forward 24hrs and the Newspapers front pages are plastered with RW’s face accompanied with a headline detailing the means by which he died. Where is the uproar about this? Nowhere. Why? Because they’re Newspapers. However it is because of this that they should have shown more respect and a lot more discretion in their reports.
Admittedly there have been some articles, including one excellently written piece stating that the Newpapers had “got it wrong” (The Drum, 2014) in dwelling “on how it was done”. This shouldn’t be a surprise though, as the article later goes on to state that after a survey 10 years ago, 94% of reporting agencies had no knowledge of the guidelines for reporting news stories relating to suicide and mental health.
Do we honestly think that this will have changed over the course of the last decade? Of course not. Newspapers are a corporate business. They are all about the money and they will print any details they want in order to sell their product. Rather than show some sort of responsibility to their audience and use the tragic loss of RW as an opportunity to educate and raise awareness of mental health issues like depression they turned the other cheek.It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Whitney Houston are two recent examples of that.
“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all of the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (via Zelda Williams)
Sufferers of depression and victims of suicide should not be made into money-making schemes. It’s a serious issue that is recognised by few and shrugged off by many. Unfortunately many people take the same stance as Shepard Smith and Alan Brazil. The stigma that surrounds depression forces a lot of people to deny it, especially when they are confronted with the phrase ‘snap out of it’ or – in regards to teenagers – ‘it’s just a phase’.
Well, guess what? It isn’t. In the UK at least 1 in 4 suffer from some kind of mental health problem whilst 1 in 10 suffer from depression which, alongside anxiety, makes it the most common mental health disorder in Britain. But there are means by which you can get professional support. Way to help you deal and come to terms with the situation you may find yourself in. In amongst the news of an icon such as Robin Williams can be a victim of suicide that has, unequivocally, been linked to depression, these means are what should be published and encouraged. By focussing on the details of RW’s death news stations are running the risk of influencing many by making those who do suffer from depression and other mental health issues feel like suicide is the only way out.
Depression isn’t a game. You can’t just escape when someone rolls a 5 or an 8. Alexander McQueen, Kurt Cobain, Deborah Laake, Sarah Kane, Robert Enke, Gary Speed, Virginia Woolf and now Robin Williams are but a few. Let us not hound out those who became victims of suicide. Let us not shame them for their deaths being linked to their depression because, if we do, how many more headlines akin to today might we see?
“For a man that had so many personal problems in his past to want to still make people happy with what he was doing takes a lot, it takes strength. He was the bench mark for showing there was always light at the end of any dark tunnel and that things didn’t have to be different because things were being difficult” – Sean Thomas Jolly
If you are suffering, or wish to talk to someone, feel free to visit any of the websites listed by the NHS here