(Featured image from Michael Loccisano/Getty Images/AFP)
Despite the laughter, smiles, and light that he brought to people’s lives, unbeknownst to people, Robin Williams was battling his own demons the entire time.
Yesterday, Jim Norton (comedian, New York Times best-selling author, and the host of “The Jim Norton Show“) penned a heartfelt account of his experience with the late Robin Williams which read:
The funniest people I know seem to be the ones surrounded by darkness. And that’s probably why they’re the funniest. The deeper the pit, the more humour you need to dig yourself out of it.
There is simply no way Robin could have understood the way the rest of us saw him. And there is simply no way he could have understood how much respect and adoration other performers had for him.
At least I hope he couldn’t have understood.
Because it’s too sad to think that maybe he did understand, and it just wasn’t enough anymore.
63-year-old Robin Williams has been battling with alcoholism and drug abuse for a long time. It’s common for issues of alcohol and drug abuse by celebrities in general to be often shoved in the spotlight. Plus, the comedy legend had himself spoken openly about them in the past, drawing on them in his stand-up comedy routines. But the severity of it was never really known, at least not to the general public.
His wife, Susan Schneider, was the last person to see him alive the night before he died. She left the house on Monday assuming that he was still asleep in a separate room in the house.
However, that very same day, his personal assistant enter the room when he failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door. Robin Williams was found dead in a seated position with a belt around his neck (with the other end of the belt wedged between the clothes closet door and the door frame) and slight wounds to his wrist. The police refused to say whether a suicide note was found, but it was disclosed that a pocket knife with signs of dried blood on its blade was being examined.
As at time of writing, it is assumed that he died of asphyxia due to hanging, but the final cause of death would not be declared until toxicology tests are completed.
Shock and grief from his family, friends, and fans poured in from all over the world. Many talked about how stunned they were upon hearing the news while others shared their best Robin Williams-related childhood memories and favourite quotes.
Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams, in particular, touched many hearts with an image that she uploaded on both Instagram and Twitter, which quotes French writer Antoine De-Saint Exupery’s “The Little Prince“:
— Zelda Williams (@zeldawilliams) August 12, 2014
She has also since released a statement on her Tumblr. A snippet of it reads, “Dad was, is, and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls I’ve ever known, and while there are a few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colourful and less full of laughter in his absence.”
Other notable and moving tributes include a statement from President Barack Obama which said:
Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.
On a flip side, there’s now slight controversy over what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (best known as the people behind the Oscars) posted up on Twitter as soon as Robin Williams’ tragic death was announced. The Academy sent out an iconic social media image which represents Robin Williams, a screen grab from Disney’s “Aladdin” where the Genie is hugging Aladdin. It has since been retweeted over 300k times and favourited 200k times.
While it brought tears to many people’s eyes because it reminded the world of one of Robin Williams’ most memorable roles, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has found it a little hard to swallow:
Genie, you’re free. pic.twitter.com/WjA9QuuldD
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) August 12, 2014
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention chief medical officer Christine Moutier commented, “If it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it. Suicide should never be presented as an option. That’s a formula for potential contagion.” She was referred to a phenomenon called, “copycat suicide”,in which media coverage or publicity one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way. The starry sky from Disney’s “Aladdin” and the written implication, “Genie, you’re free” is somehow a liberating option, presenting suicide in too celebratory a light.
As such, and in Robin Williams’ absence, we’ll end this post with a little “give back”.
He made the world laugh, smile, and heal while he was still with us, he’d want to continue to make the world laugh, smile, and heal even when he’s gone. So, if you are in pain or if you know someone who’s in pain, please..please get help. Talk to a family member, a friend, or a professional. You may also contact The Befrienders (they have HQs in Malacca, Penang, KL, Ipoh, and Seremban) or call one of the Lifeline Association of Malaysia hotlines at:
- (063) 92850039
- (063) 92850279
- (063) 92850049
We cannot stress enough how serious depression is. Depression is not the same as sadness. Depression is an illness, a disease, whereas sadness is an emotion. Do not downplay it, do not criticise it, do not shun it. Get help as and when necessary.