It was one year ago today that the biggest post of my writing career went viral. Many of you came to this blog because of the death of Robin Williams – a tragic suicide that rocked our worlds and left a family without a father. The Genie was set free that day from crippling depression and the onset of Parkinson’s disease, and in that, it was a sad but oddly powerful day. I said then that I don’t think that his death was a waste, and I still don’t. His death was not a waste. It was a blessed release from the prison of hellish pain he lived in.
I’ve had a year to consider different aspects and opinions about suicide and mental health. I’m a sufferer of mental illness – I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. When I was in university, I was suicidal, a number of times. One time I nearly succeeded – but the interruption of my best friend asking me to go out with her saved me from choosing that path. While I still don’t know, to this day, if I would have gone through with it, it’s made me much more aware of suicidal ideation and the effect it has on the mentally ill population as well as the myths and scorn that surrounds it in the neurotypical one.
So, I decided to be a better advocate. I don’t want people to feel that suicide is their only option – and I do want to be supportive to those who have lost family members and friends through suicide. I still stand by my assertion that suicide is not a waste, it’s an act of desperation. In order to prevent it, we need better mental health support.
I started the hashtag #TheAnxietyDiaries on Twitter one day when my anxiety was bad and I had flitting suicidal thoughts just to get away from the panic attacks. It’s grown into a close-knit, supportive Facebook group and a regular series on my blog. I’ve had dozens of people reach out to me to tell their stories of mental illness, anxiety, and suicide. I’ve had people tell me about mental health care in their communities (or lack thereof) and I’ve had deep, heartfelt chats with those who needed to talk about what mental illness has done in their lives.
I’m honoured that I could be that person to open the dialogue. I want to continue to be that person.
Please don’t stop talking about your experiences and sharing your thoughts. Please reach out to those in your life that suffer from mental illness and be that support for them. Don’t judge. Don’t offer suggestions unless the person wants that. Listen and be someone that they can reach out to when times are bad. Mental illness is so stigmatized and isolating. I’d like to think that if Robin Williams had had a person he trusted, he may have chosen a different path than he did. He may not have – but it can make such a huge difference in the life of someone who feels desperate to escape the pain.
As for the Captain, wherever he may be – I hope that his family is healing from his loss. I also hope that he has inspired others to be advocates for mental health and communication. I know he’s made even more of a difference in my life, just in this past year.
RIP, Robin Williams. We miss you – and we’re working hard to make the world a better place, just like you did.