What The Media Had To Say About Robin Williams

Born 1951 - Died 2014

Born 1951 – Died 2014

Like so many others in America, I was stunned to learn about Robin Williams’s death, doubly so when I understood that he had committed suicide. I can only express my deep sadness.

When a person takes his own life, it’s the kind of sadness that feels hopeless and regretful at the same time. If only someone had realized, if only someone had reached him, if only . . .

But in Robin Williams’s case, I am not only saddened, I’m mystified by the treatment the media gave his death. The overwhelming response seemed to be to shower him with accolades—except, of course, he was no longer here to appreciate all the nice things people said.

People set up little shrines on his Hollywood star and at his home. The theater where six of his movies debuted darkened their lights in his honor. ABC’s 20-20 pushed aside their planned programming to do a special honoring Williams.

One picture shown over and over was of a comedy theater putting up a sign: Rest in peace, Robin Williams. We miss you. Make God laugh. (This may not the exact quote).

But what I didn’t hear was, what made him do it?

Now if someone else had shot him, I’m confident we would have had many news reports delving into the mind of the perpetrator. Why would anyone want to kill a talented, much loved actor like Robin Williams?

So my question is, why didn’t the media ask that same question when they learned he had taken his own life? Clearly Williams was successful. He had done what few actors can successfully do—he’d crossed over from comedy to drama and back again. As the news ran through the number of movies he was in, I couldn’t help but wonder how he’d managed to be in so many hits. Did he make the movie or did he just have a good eye for the scripts that would be successful?

In addition, one standup comedian attributed to Williams a complete revolution in comedy. Essentially he was saying Williams was to comedy what the Beatles were to music. High praise. Clearly he was respected in his profession.

In all this, however, there was little recognition of Williams as a human being. Yes, one report mentioned that he’d been married three times, that he had a daughter and two sons, that he’d had a drug and alcohol problem but received treatment some twenty years ago. Only recently he’d sought help again and planned to check himself back into rehab.

Today there’s a spate of articles about the “national health problem” which suicide has become. The Huffington post put out an article about the relationship of suicide with sleep problems. Others deliver caution about how the young are most at risk when it comes to suicide.

The UK publication Mirror published an article specific to the causes of Williams’s suicide, the chief being money issues and depression about having to work in TV again and take parts in movies he didn’t want. Add to that the fact that The Crazy One, the CBS comedy in which he starred, was cancelled after one season.

None of which answers the question: why? Other people have money problems and setbacks in their career. He was certainly not homeless or penniless.

I don’t think there are easy answers here. When someone who identifies as gay commits suicide, the media is quick to accuse society for bullying and rejecting and isolating gays.

But Robin Williams was loved and talented and successful.

Mental illness is another part of the suicide discussion. And drugs have been blamed for other actors who have taken their own life.

But Williams doesn’t seem to have a history of mental illness. He’d been off drugs for twenty years before seeking help for problems with alcohol.

Then why?

What media pundits are unlikely to discuss in regard to his suicide is Williams’s spiritual condition. I’m not suggesting that our relationship with God eliminates depression or the potential for suicide.

Too many pastors have transparently admitted to their own struggle with depression, including my own pastor, Mike Erre. Too many other believers have lost someone close to them because of suicide.

Nevertheless, we humans are not just bodies, minds, and emotions. We have a spiritual dimension, and we’d be foolish if we looked at the physical factors such as sleep problems, and the mental and emotional factors such as money worries and career disappointments, without also looking at spiritual issues.

For one thing, Williams was 63. It seems clear the boomer generation has been trying to deal with impending death one way or another. Of course you don’t conclude that someone who committed suicide was afraid of death, but he well may have been afraid of life.

Could it be possible that his love of humor in part shielded him from thinking about grave issues he didn’t want to face?

More importantly, could it be that his worldview lulled him into thinking he could bring an end to the unhappiness of his life, not realizing that this life is not the end?

My hope is Christians will step forward and let the world know that God belongs in this discussion, that a person who is hurting for any number of reasons, needs the complete picture.

God is a God of grace and mercy, a God who gives second chances and plans for our eternity. He is the only one who will be with us when we leave this life for the next. Why would we think a person’s attitude about God won’t make a difference?

What we believe about God is not a magic antidepressant. But neither is He indifferent to our problems. God matters, and we as believers need to let other people know that He offers hope and help and healing for the lost and lonely and discouraged, yes, and for the depressed.

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Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 6:13 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 Comments

  1. Actually Becky, Mr. Williams did have severe depression and possible Bipolar disorder. That, in my opinion, contributed to the alcohol and drug problems. My heart goes out to his family. He must have been in awful pain to have fallen so very low.

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    • Interesting. I hadn’t read that in any of the articles I looked at and certainly didn’t hear it on TV news. Thanks, Tina. Yes, my heart goes out to his family and friends, too. It really is such a sad situation. Mr. Williams is quoted in one movie he played in which dealt with suicide as saying It’s a permanent answer to a temporary problem. I wish he’d had someone to remind him of that and then help him to deal with the greater need of his life.

      Becky

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  2. This was a thoughtful article that asks questions no one else wants to ask. The whole situation is sad indeed.

    I too penned a few words on this subject that you may be interested in: http://jlpattison.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/saying-goodbye-to-a-man-and-a-childhood/

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