Editorial: Williams touched many with gift for acting

Untimely death of beloved performer casts new light on depression
Aug. 12, 2014 @ 02:33 PM

As the news of actor Robin Williams' tragic death broke Monday evening, the response from his fans was overwhelming.

The 63-year-old comedian had touched millions with his zany, quick-hitting routines, and he'd also touched many with his emotionally charged dramatic performances. Williams seemed to have a deep well of emotional reserves from which to draw. In the end, according to some sources, it could have been those emotions that led to his death.

"He has been battling severe depression of late," Williams' publicist told several outlets.

Having battled substance abuse for years, Williams was also widely reported to be chronically depressed, perhaps even suffering from bipolar disorder. Despite the legions of adoring fans, there were inner demons Williams could never conquer.

There was quite an outpouring from fans on social media, as people told of their favorite Williams' movie, TV appearance or comedy routine. "Mork and Mindy," "Dead Poet's Society," "The Fisher King," and "Good Morning, Vietnam" were all mentioned, as were some of his appearances in children and family movies — as the genie in Disney's "Aladdin," playing Mrs. Doubtfire and his recent role as Teddy Roosevelt in "Night at the Museum."

In many cases, fans spoke of Williams as if he'd been a family member, someone they had known for years, having watched him grow from a 27-year-old when "Mork and Mindy" premiered through his final appearance starring in the recently cancelled CBS series "The Crazy Ones."  

Unfortunately, we can never know what's actually going on inside another human being.

Depression is real. It can be debilitating. And, all too often, people who suffer from it are treated as if they can simply will themselves to get better, and it just isn't so.

"Major depression frequently goes unrecognized and untreated and may foster tragic consequences, such as suicide and impaired interpersonal relationships at work and at home," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website, cdc.gov. "The use of medications and/or specific psychotherapeutic techniques has proven very effective in the treatment of major depression, but this disorder is still misconstrued as a sign of weakness, rather than being recognized as an illness."

It's a shame. Mental illness isn't something one chooses, and it's not something that sufferers can simply get over.

If you or someone you know has the symptoms of depression or other mental illnesses, help should be sought through a qualified professional. Doing nothing won't make things better.