Lessons from Robin Williams

by - August 14, 2014

I've lived through many celebrity deaths - Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Elizabeth Taylor just to name a few. But none have really hit me ... until now.

From Aladdin and Jumangi to Patch Adams and The Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Bird Cage and even Hook, Robin Williams has been a big part of my life. He made me laugh; he made me cry; and I almost always learned something from his films. It's hard to imagine the future of cinema without him. Instead of mourning his death, I'd rather remember the great characters he played and the things I learned from him both on and off the screen.

Robin Williams was born in Chicago on July 21, 1951. He studied political science before enrolling at the Julliard School to study theatre. He was discovered performing in a night club. He got his big break as Mork from Orc on "Happy Days" in 1974. That performance led to the spinoff show "Mork and Mindy" in 1978. Over the course of his career, Robin Williams appeared in more than 100 films and TV episodes. Ironically, he was voted least likely to succeed in high school. (via IMDb)

Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, I feel like I grew up with Robin. The first movie I really remember him from is Aladdin as the Genie, a part that he mostly improvised. Then of course came Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams taught me so much about life, especially in his role as Mrs. Doubtfire. My biological parents are divorced so that movie really spoke to me and helped me realize with more certainty that children are not the cause of their parents' divorce.

“You’re not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense: this girl you’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other.” - Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting
He taught me about love in Good Will Hunting. He taught me about the true meaning of family in Hook. He taught me about loss in Patch Adams. He taught me about freedom in Aladdin.

But the lessons Robin Williams taught the world went well beyond the screen. He was very active in the St. Jude's Children Research Hospital, never charging the organization to appear in commercials or at events. He was also on the board of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which raises money to fund spinal cord research. And he was a big supporter of the United Service Organization, which provides support and morale-boosting services to U.S. troops and their families. (via CNN Money)

And those are just the good things he's commonly known for...

After Christopher Reeve had his paralyzing accident, Robin dressed up in scrubs and visited his long-time friend at the hospital. Reeve said it was the first time after the accident that he smiled. During the filming of Schindler's List, Robin would call director Steven Spielburg just to tell him jokes and lift his spirits. (via Huffington Post)

Robin's death has sparked national conversation about suicide and depression. I hope it encourages anyone who is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts to seek help.

According to a 2011 survey, someone in the U.S. commits suicide every 13 minutes. It is the 10th leading cause of death in America. The highest rates of suicide are among people  between the ages of 45 and 65; the second highest rates are among people 85 or older. The South has the second-highest rate in the country. (via American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

I know people who have tried to commit suicide; I know people who self harm. And while I don't understand the motivation behind either act, I do hope they know that they can always seek me out. Depression is a serious thing that often gets brushed off as someone being too dramatic. It's a topic that no one wants to talk about but that we need to talk about.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or displaying suicidal behavior, there is help out there. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Don't wait until it's too late. Call today. 1-800-273-TALK.

Originally posted to my professional blog - www.wtvy.com/blogs/lessons
(photos via cosmopolitan.com) 

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  1. Great post, Ashton! Robin's suicide is a shock and an incalculable loss, not only for the entertainment industry but for the charitable organizations to which he unselfishly lent his talents.

    Robin Williams has been a household name most of my life. As much as I enjoyed his over-the-top improvisation, the performances I admired most were his sensitive dramatic roles. It's powerful when a well known comic actor dials it back and delivers a convincing dramatic portrayal and Robin Williams did it many times.

    Thank you for sharing memories of Robin Williams and addressing the important topic of suicide awareness and prevention.

    1. Thank you. If nothing else, I hope his death does encourage those who are in a similar situation to seek help.

  2. This is such a great post. When I first heard about his death, I got really really upset, and when I found out about his depression, I wondered how long it would take for me to give in, like he did.

    I have been suffering from depression and anxiety for a long time now, but have only started therapy and meds last year. That's also why I stopped blogging. Christina and I used to talk about it, when she was active on Tumblr.

    It's just sad, because Robin Williams was a very good comedian. This post just highlights why he was so great. It's sad that he's gone.

    1. Oh, Gnetch, I hope you're doing better! I miss reading your blog. If you ever need someone to talk to, you know where to find me...