He made so many people laugh and now millions cry for him. The news of Robin Williams’ death on August 11 made me very sad. Here was a man who “had everything to live for” but took his own life. This tragedy is another reminder that life can be hard even when it seems that a person has everything going for them. It also reminds us that we can never know the depth of any person’s struggles.

Robin Williams burst into the public eye on the Mork and Mindy television series in 1978. His character Mork, an extraterrestrial alien from the planet Ork, quickly became a favorite of millions. In 1997, the episode “Mork’s Mixed Emotions” was viewed by 61 million people and is ranked 94 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.

This manic comic brought much joy and laughter to millions of people with the multitude of voices and characters that he could call forth at the drop of a hat. In an article for Time Magazine Dick Cavett recalls an occasion years ago when Williams came off stage at a small club with the audience cheering wildly. This wacky comedian said to Cavett, “Isn’t it funny how I can bring great happiness to all these people, but not to myself.”

Robin Williams was more than an extraordinary comedian. He was also a talented serious actor. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting. He received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.

It is no secret that this much beloved and talented comedian/actor struggled with substance abuse, anxiety and depression. He openly talked about his struggles and often incorporated them into his comic routines. And it was revealed after his death that he had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

Former child actor Mara Wilson who played William’s daughter in the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, remembers him as “warm, gentle, expressive, nurturing, and brilliant.”

The circumstances of his death help us to realize that depression is what the late award-winning writer William Styron in an essay for Newsweek (April 18, 1994) called “an interior pain that is all but indescribable.” He said, “People don’t think rich, famous, funny people can suffer from depression. But they can. I know from experience that sometimes the ones who seem like they have the most going for them can be holding on by the slimmest threads.”

In a Huffington Post blog, sixteen year old Ally Del Monte recently wrote: “Depression doesn’t discriminate. It knows no boundaries. Young, old, rich, poor, fat, thin, beautiful, ugly, popular, nerd, loved, lonely- depression doesn’t see a difference and affects all kinds of people.”

It is estimated that 19 million American adults are living with major depression. The National Institute of Mental Health says many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medication, psychotherapy, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.

Depression has been called “the worst agony devised for man” but it is an illness and it can be treated. Unfortunately many people treat depression as something to be ashamed of or a sign of weakness instead of an illness just like cancer, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Any illness, physical or mental, if untreated can do great harm. But with proper diagnosis, medication, and other forms of treatment health can be restored.

If you are depressed, seek treatment. If you know someone who is depressed, encourage them to get help. See a medical doctor, a mental health specialist, or your pastor. There can be life after depression. Don’t settle for anything else.

Jamie Jenkins

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