Robin Williams, Suicide, & the Demon Called Depression

Robin Williams, Suicide, & the Demon Called Depression

This morning, I did something I’ve never done before: I cried for an actor.

I’m not one to follow celebrity gossip or obsess over the lives of Hollywood stars. I’m not even one who’s overly excited to get autographs from the stars who’ve played my favourite television and movie characters. And unlike a friend of mine, I don’t have a list of the young and famous that I pray regularly for (though perhaps, more of us should). But this morning, while eating breakfast, I found myself crying and I didn’t know why. I prayed about it, and realized, I was grieving.

The news of Robin William’s death by suicide last night crashed through the internet like a storm. For many of us, though we didn’t ever meet him or talk to him, he held a special place in our hearts. In his roles as John Keating (Dead Poets Society), Mrs. Doubtfire, the Genie (Aladdin), Hunter Patch Adams (Patch Adams), and many more, Williams didn’t just steal the show; he stole our hearts. He gravitated towards roles that called out our hearts’ desire for love and beauty and passion and joy and acceptance.

As the news frenzy overhauls this tragedy, one thing has come up very quickly: Robin Williams struggled with depression. As a man who has struggled with depression most of my life, and as someone who has lost friends to depression and suicide, I am deeply affected by William’s death. Though I did not know him personally, his death, in this way, has affected me personally.

And I suspect I’m not the only one.

There is a demon that runs through the mind that those who have struggled with depression know all too well. He’s a crafty and slippery spirit, sapping joy, stealing dignity, and eating happiness. He whispers in a crowd and shouts when we’re alone. He accuses, he taunts, and he laughs. And some nights, he overshadows all, drawing the very soul from the body through the stomach, whispering, “You’re alone, you’re broken, you’re unlovable, you’re a failure, it’s hopeless, it’ll never get better. You should just kill yourself.”

This is the demon called depression.

For some, he comes for a season. For others, he’s a constant companion. Some of us have learned to block him out by staying busy. Some of us have weakened his power through exercise, healthy eating, and medication. Some of us have fought his lies with recording good memories and encouraging words. Some of us have appeased him with compulsive destructive behaviours and bleeding out. And still others have made him a friend, making us bitter, cynical, and hateful, like the demon inside.

Depression is such a huge topic and an illness that affects billions. There are so many books and blogs written on this subject, so many cures and coping mechanisms offered. Everyone has a different piece of advice, their own way of dealing with this demon, and sometimes, their own opinion that they feel they need to tell us. In the midst of all of this (sometimes unhelpful) information, how do we know what to do? Oh that there were a simple way to defeat depression once and for all.

A friend of mine, Brett Ullman, once told me that out of the thousands of emails he’s received about suicide and depression, the common two elements for those of us who have survived are these: We talked to someone, and we found the help we needed.

And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve talked to people, and I’ve found the help I’ve needed. A large part of that for me was my faith in Jesus Christ and my Christian family. I’ve found peace in prayer and meditation, and I’ve found another Spirit that lives in my mind. This Spirit speaks life and love and hope. I’ve found a community of people who, in spite of their brokenness, encourage me, help me, and love me. And though the demon hasn’t left, I know now that when it whispers or shouts, “You’re alone,” he’s lying.

You may not want anything to do with Jesus, but if nothing else, He was this: proof that one person can bring light and life and hope to millions in a dark and difficult world.

So let us together be light.
Let us together be life.
Let us together be HOPE.

And maybe, just maybe, we can shout together into the dark abyss and send the demons running.


They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

P.S. Please take the time to watch a video I made of my story. I hope it will encourage you. Feel free to share it with others. As well, if you need help, please check out these two websites. I know the founders personally, and they’re great people who’ve had the courage to share their own story and help others.

More like this here.

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Published by Mark Stromenberg

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