Reflecting on Robin Williams' Passing

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work that went into Untreated, but know it is only a small step toward raising awareness and beginning to change outdated and ineffective systems.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.

How Robin Williams Honed his Craft
Pioneers of Television

How Robin Williams Honed his Craft

Robin Williams developed his signature style of improvisational comedy as a young comic.

Robin Williams – In Memoriam (1951 – 2014)
Great Performances

Robin Williams – In Memoriam (1951 – 2014)

Great Performances remembers the actor who brought unbridled passion to every performance.

Robin Williams and Billy Crystal Praise Whoopi Goldberg
Mark Twain Prize

Robin Williams and Billy Crystal Praise Whoopi Goldberg

Robin Williams and Billy Crystal honor 2001 Mark Twain Prize winner Whoopi Goldberg.

Robin Williams Honors Billy Crystal
Mark Twain Prize

Robin Williams Honors Billy Crystal

Robin Williams honors comedian Billy Crystal at the 2007 Mark Twain Prize ceremony.

Robin Williams Made Transformation Look Effortless
PBS Newshour

Robin Williams Made Transformation Look Effortless

The death of Robin Williams, beloved American comedian and actor, has sparked an outpouring of shock and sadness.

How Robin Williams' Kindness Touched My Family
Next Avenue

How Robin Williams' Kindness Touched My Family

The comedian and actor lent a hand when my dad most needed one.

More From PBS

Jonathan Winters "Mentors" Robin Williams
Pioneers of Television

Jonathan Winters "Mentors" Robin Williams

Improv master Jonathan Winters paved the way for younger comedian Robin Williams.

Turning Robin Williams into a Dead Tiger
Independent Lens

Turning Robin Williams into a Dead Tiger

Watch Robin Williams rehearse for the titular role in Playwright: From Page to Stage.

Replacing the Lead Character with Robin Williams
Independent Lens

Replacing the Lead Character with Robin Williams

Watch the legendary comic in this scene from Playwright: From Page to Stage.

Jonathan Winters Shares His Comedy Hero: Robin Williams
Make 'Em Laugh

Jonathan Winters Shares His Comedy Hero: Robin Williams

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.

Mental Health Resource Finder

Mental Health Resource Finder

Find help that is right for you. Locate national, local and online mental health and support organizations.

Depression

Depression

Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is an illness that affects at least 17 million Americans. Depression is not a moral or emotional failing, but rathe...

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is not as rare as you might think; approximately 3 in 100 Americans have bipolar disorder. Learn about bipolar disorder and who...

Addiction

Addiction

Addiction exacts a heavy toll on individuals, families, and society. Learn about the effects that addiction can have on individuals, as well as society as a whole.

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Next Week on Colorado State of Mind

Next Week on Colorado State of Mind

Tune in next week to Colorado State of Mind, (8/22, 7:30pm) when local health professionals will discuss whether depression is on the rise and where to find help.

Rocky Mountain PBS I-News: UNTREATED

Rocky Mountain PBS I-News: UNTREATED

Rocky Mountain PBS I-News shares insights and resources on the effects of mental illness.