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Losing Robin Williams: Larger than life even in death
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Celebrities are in a class by themselves. We don’t know them personally, but they affect our lives as if we do. They are like close friends at arm’s length. Since they are larger than life itself, the death of a celebrity often creates an inexplicable void. Robin Williams was larger than life in many ways. He touched us all - old and young alike - and if it’s any consolation, his body of work will keep his memory alive.
You can’t deny the comic genius that was Robin Williams. The speed at which his brain whirled the one-liners was mindboggling; the accuracy of his impersonations was uncanny. And let’s not forget his most-admired talent – a mastery of the ‘ad lib’ in every situation from his stand-up routines, to movies, and voice over in animation. He made us laugh out loud and uncontrollably. We were also awed by the dramatic roles which stirred another side of our emotions.
Now, in the aftermath of this tragic and sudden loss, we are touched for yet another reason; Robin Williams took his own life. He chose death by suicide and we may feel additional emotions, like anger, guilt and helplessness.
We can console ourselves that we’ll always have Mrs. Doubtfire, Genie, Mork, John Keating, and others. Robin Williams may have left us with another role upon which to reflect – that of ambassador for depression and suicide. Perhaps now we will be encouraged to talk about it, and learn to recognize opportunities to help. In his honour, let’s start the conversation.
Male depression may be harder to identify
Since we’re talking about Robin Williams, and because males who suffer with depression often show different signs and coping skills than women, we’re picking up the torch to start the conversation on male depression.
Whether it’s because of brain chemistry, hormones or societal influences, men and women sometimes experience depression differently. Depressed men and women may experience many of the same feelings and symptoms, but men may also display behaviours that are not typical and could go unrecognized and untreated. Some examples include: escapist or risky behaviour; controlling, violent or abusive behaviour; irritability; or inappropriate anger.
For some men, feeling sad or emotional isn’t the main symptom and depression could go unrecognized. They may display physical symptoms instead, like headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain. Men may also seek distraction or downplay the symptoms to avoid dealing with feelings or admitting to themselves or others that they may be depressed.
Men may not be as open to talking about their feelings as women are, and may suppress the feelings because it’s not ‘manly’ to do so. Then there’s the stigma of depression or mental illness as weakness.
Men are also more likely to complete suicide, even though women attempt suicide more often than men. That's because men may use methods that are more likely to be lethal; they act more quickly on suicidal thoughts; and they may show fewer warning signs. Asking for help may be harder for men, so they may not reach out to family, friends or professionals.
Here’s a link for more information on Male depression: Understanding the issues.
Let’s keep the conversation going
Depression doesn’t go away on its own and may get worse if untreated. We need to encourage others to look for the signs and recognize the opportunities to help. We need to encourage and invite depressed individuals to seek help and we need to continue the conversation about mental health issues, including depression and suicide.