“There is still a lot to learn and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful.”
Very few actors have the innate ability to transport a viewer into the life of a character and the trials and tribulations surrounding them. Robin Williams, it seemed, was one of the exceptions. Whether it was a charismatic English teacher transmitting his passion to the younger generations; a struggling father desperate to find a way to spend time with his children; someone transfixed by a lost love and a bizarre board game; or a therapist helping a patient find his place in the world, there was something for everyone within Mr Williams’ work. For many, watching one of Robin’s films is an experience like no other. You can’t help but feel as though you’re witnessing history in the making. This was a man who appeared to be doing what he was destined to do; and boy did he do it well.
But on August 11th 2014, we lost one of the greatest icons the world has ever seen.
Not merely an incredibly talented actor and comedian, Robin Williams used his position in the industry to bring attention to human rights issues such as education, health care, and the environment. He toured the Middle East 5 times throughout his life, bringing his comedy to the troupes in Afghanistan and Iraq as a means of providing an escape for the soldiers, and to show his support and appreciation for all they do. He visited terminally ill children in hospitals to give them a brief but meaningful respite from their daily struggles, and following the earthquake in New Zealand in 2010 he gave 100% of his profits from tours in the country to victims of the terrible disaster. All in all, Williams was affiliated with a total of 28 charities throughout his lifetime.
But every great person has their very real struggles. He battled drug and alcohol addiction for a number of years, and was believed to have struggled with depression for the last few months of his life. Whilst we remember all the beautiful joy and counsel he brought to the world, perhaps we should also channel Mr Williams’ courageous legacy and begin to educate ourselves on the reality of depression.
No matter whom you are or how much money you have, depression can strike any of us at any time. At the moment there are very few means for people suffering from depression to seek help, and this is largely due to the fact that the powers that be are yet to regard it as a serious issue. But it is. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental illness needs to be handled with the exact same urgency and proficiency as physical illness. If someone you knew had a broken leg you wouldn’t tell them to walk it off, so why are we constantly bombarding people struggling with mental illness that “other people have it worse” or “just think happy thoughts”, or simply that “you’re overreacting”?
Until we become active in the fight to help those struggling with mental illnesses, things simply cannot improve. So while we all come together to mourn the tragic loss of one of the industry’s most beloved veterans, please remember that we can fuel this change. Let us stand together in the memory of Robin Williams and remember, “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or any other form of mental illness, please follow this link for help and advice: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mental-health-helplines.aspx
Words by Sophie