This week the world is feeling the loss of a monumental actor and comic genius who won the hearts and minds of millions of people since the 1970’s.
Robin Williams the Oscar winning actor brought laughter and joy to countless people from all ages and generations; yet it’s reported that he himself suffered from severe depression which police suspect may have led to his suicide.
How is it possible that a man loved by so many and of such enormous talent could face such a tragic end to a life in which he gave so much?
Kevin Breel, a comedian and mental health activist spoke about his own personal fight with depression at a TED conference over a year before the loss of the much loved Robin Williams. No one will know what Robin Williams was going through or thinking but Kevin’s self-disclosure and passionate talk gives us a glimpse into how a depressed comic felt himself.
I share this video in memory of Robin Williams and also as an example of how someone suffering from such a potentially debilitating condition can give such a passionate, humbling and educational speech on a subject which affects so many the world-over.
Even from the word go Kevin captures our undivided attention with an opening we feel compelled to want to know more about:
“For a long time in my life I’ve felt like I’ve been living two different lives”.
Perhaps a similar thought troubled our beloved actor Robin Williams.
For those who have never suffered from depression it may of course be quite difficult to relate to what Kevin is trying to say but through the power of carefully chosen words he helps us to begin to understand:
“Depression isn’t chicken pox, you don’t beat it once and it’s gone forever.”
“It’s the roommate you can’t kick out”
“If you break your arm everyone runs over to sign your cast but if you tell people you’re depressed everyone runs the other way”
“Right now depression is society’s deep cut that we’re prepared to put a band aid over and pretend it’s not there”
What may come as a complete shock for many people is the thought provoking and poignant point that Kevin makes in his talk:
“Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right.”
From the outside in it probably appeared to millions of us as fans of Robin Williams that everything in his life was going right when clearly that wasn’t the case. It makes you wonder who you may come across today where it appears to you that everything is going right for them when the message is we truly have no real idea. As a comedian who is used to making people laugh this is a different kind of performance; a heartfelt one which is profound and very real.
“Two years ago I sat on the edge of my bed where I’d sat a million times before (pause) and I was suicidal (pause).
“My story is this, four simple words; I suffer from depression”
For someone who is used to making people laugh that must have taken some courage. Courage that will undoubtedly help countless others as we being to become more open, tolerant and understanding about an illness which sadly in the 21st Century still carries such unfounded and inappropriate stigma.
Kevin gives the perfect close and call to action in his brilliant speech:
“The only way we are going to beat a problem that people are battling alone is by standing strong together”.
A message I’m certain Robin Williams will look down and with agree.
RIP Robin Williams
July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014