Growing up as child of the 80’s, as I and many others did, one thing is very true – we all watched Mork & Mindy. Sure, we saw Mork appear first on an episode of Happy Days when things were going off the rails but it was still a pretty funny appearance by then unknown Robin Williams. I say unknown due to his non popularity with most people in the world at that time. But he instantly made an impact as the zany Orkan visitor.

When the Gods gift you with the kind of talent Robin had, there’s a price to pay, there always is. It doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from deep problems inside, a concern, all sorts of fears – and yet he could always channel those things and turn them into something gold. – Terry Gilliam

He went on to great success in Mork & Mindy co-starring Pam Dawber. That allowed him to convert into a movie star. He has been in some of the most hilarious comedies and touching dramas since he left TV all those years ago. He managed to rack up an impressive 102 acting credits. Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, Aladdin, Happy Feet, Hook, The Fischer King and these are only a small sampling of his great work over the years. He even recently returned to television in the sitcom The Crazy Ones with Sarah Michelle Gellar. He was everywhere over the last 40 years.

He wasn’t just a great actor or comedian. He was a great person too. He was one of the original hosts of Comic Relief alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal. He founded the Windfall Foundation with his first wife and helped out others such as the Red Cross, USO and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Williams was always trying to give back to others in need. It’s one of the great ironies of what happened. A man so willing to give his time to help and yet possibly feeling he was adrift in the human experience.

Mork

This is why when I jumped on Facebook for a quick minute during the afternoon on Monday August 11th I was stunned to see the news that Robin Williams was dead. The current information available states that he took his own life Monday morning. His 63rd birthday was only a few weeks ago and now he is gone. He leaves behind 3 children, his wife, friends and fans of all ages around the world, all left wondering if there was more that could have been done.

It seems so strange to think of the man who made millions of us laugh everyday didn’t know how to make himself happy. Since this happened, there has been a massive outpouring of sympathy and grief over his loss. He affected so many of us each time he performed or just in chance encounters. He would heap praise on those he worked with like the cast & director of Dead Poet’s Society, or giving Norm MacDonald a little humour before he first appeared on Letterman pretending to be his tailor and fit him into his suit. Or when local Toronto actor/comedian Andre Arruda who had been turned down for a photo with Williams to only receive a moment later a tap on the shoulder and be asked “Hello Andre, can I have my picture taken with you?” by Robin. The man knew how to make people feel better about themselves through praise or a laugh or by making someone feel like a rockstar. It’s these types of stories that make it hard for the collective to accept what happened.

It is of public record that Williams suffered from depression and was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. After years of suffering he sought help and got treatment for all. However, anyone who has suffered from what he did or knows someone who has, knows that the battle lasts forever. While we may never know all of what was going through Williams’ head before he decided to do this one final thing, the one thing no one can ever take from him was his lasting impact on the comedy, film and television industries but especially how he effected us, his fans.

It’s really easy for us to say that suicide is never the correct option but that is sometimes an oversimplification of the truth. People all over the world everyday suffer from depression or any number of other serious mental illnesses. These illnesses lead many to decide to stop living. That it might be easier for them to do so. That there is no one to care for them. That they would stop being a burden on the rest of us. The reality is while we may know and understand that this is not true, sufferers of depression do not.

They constantly have lingering doubts about our motives behind the words and actions we have. The illness prevents them from knowing that we are there for them regardless of how many times you say it. That’s that worst part I have learned about this illness. Sufferer’s do not feel comfortable expressing how they are feeling. They often believe that we do not want to hear it or will not understand or have compassion for them. This leads them to feel even more alienated and isolated from us. That is a very sobering thought.

I’m not here to preach to you about what to do or not do. I do not suffer any form of mental illness but I have family, friends and loved ones who do suffer to varying degrees. My message is simple.

Be a listener. Be caring. Be understanding. Most of all just BE THERE for them.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
Maya Angelou

We all will miss you Robin more than you understood, thanks for the great memories… Nanu-Nanu.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Canadian Mental Health Association