The death of Robin Williams reminds us all of the fragility of the human condition. Even those who seem to “have it all” -- money, fame, public and private adoration – sometimes just can’t shake the darkness that lives within. The huge and despairing public response to Williams’ death only confirms a popularity that went far beyond his movies and comedy routines. He showed us his vulnerabilities, his tender side – so many of us could relate to him and his struggles. We felt like we knew him. The loss feels personal.
Williams’ untimely death shines a harsh bright light on mental illness. The sad truth is that people commit suicide all the time, people turn to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain (as Williams did), people steal to accommodate these anesthetizing habits, commit other crimes, slide into homelessness. So often, these behaviors can be traced to some form of mental illness. It is a slippery disease, one that can be hard to diagnose and treat and, even when all the resources in the world are available to a patient, it still might not be enough. I am convinced that we, as a society, must continue to search for better answers, to help those in pain. It is our obligation to help, whether it is Robin Williams, a friend’s child, a colleague or a homeless person on the corner.
A few months ago, a multi-part investigation by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News called Untreated took an in-depth look at how incredibly hard it can be to find treatment for the mentally ill, and the many places in our system where treatment breaks down. It showed how poverty makes it even harder to get help, but ultimately, mental illness knows no boundaries, no socioeconomic lines, no gender or racial discrimination. Just ask Robin Williams. I am proud of the investigative work that went into Untreated, but know it is only a small step toward raising awareness and beginning to change outdated and ineffective systems. Maybe Williams has the power to make a lasting dent in this daunting work. One can only hope. In the meantime, we at Rocky Mountain PBS will continue to try and make a difference wherever possible.
Below are a list mental health resources. Use them, for yourself or someone you love.
--Doug Price, CEO of Rocky Mountain PBS
For decades, actor and comedian Robin Williams delighted audiences with his quirky and manic comedic style in roles like "Mork and Mindy," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Mrs. Doubtfire," and "The Birdcage." He was also an accomplished (and Juilliard-trained) dramatic actor, appearing in films like "Dead Poets Society," "The Fisher King," and "Good Will Hunting," for which he won the Academy Award for best supporting actor.
He also made multiple appearances on PBS. From his appearances on "Pioneers of Television" to interviews with Charlie Rose to his recent appearance on Independent Lens, PBS remembers the life of this legendary entertainer.
Mark Twain Prize
Robin Williams and Billy Crystal honor 2001 Mark Twain Prize winner Whoopi Goldberg.
Mark Twain Prize
Robin Williams honors comedian Billy Crystal at the 2007 Mark Twain Prize ceremony.
The death of Robin Williams, beloved American comedian and actor, has sparked an outpouring of shock and sadness.
The comedian and actor lent a hand when my dad most needed one.
More From PBS
Pioneers of Television
Improv master Jonathan Winters paved the way for younger comedian Robin Williams.
Watch Robin Williams rehearse for the titular role in Playwright: From Page to Stage.
Watch the legendary comic in this scene from Playwright: From Page to Stage.
Make 'Em Laugh
The comedian describes the first time he met Robin while working on Mork and Mindy.
Mental Health Resources
Robin Williams struggled with battles against substance abuse and mental illness during his career and was reportedly suffering from severe depression at the time of this death. The 2010 PBS series This Emotional Life explored mental health and offers the following resources for anyone seeking support and assistance.
Find help that is right for you. Locate national, local and online mental health and support organizations.
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