Robin Williams has been beloved in the households of Americans for countless years. Adults, children and teenagers have loved, related to and laughed at the varying roles he has played on-screen. Really, Robin did a little something for everyone. As is now evident (to those unaware before), Williams struggled with his mental health, and deep depression. And now, he has taken his own life -- and whether you want your children to hear this news or not, at some point, they will.
And so, it should be you, as a parent, who talks to them -- especially if your own child has struggled with depression, or other mental health issues. Why? Because they know his face, his (many) voices, his laughter. They giggled through Flubber and Jumanji, they loved him in Aladdin, they cried during Patch Adams and Jack. I know I did. At some point, they have looked up to him or his characters.
Especially for someone who has struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts, losing a well-known figure to suicide, while incredibly tragic, can also exacerbate feelings of hopelessness in fellow sufferers. For youth, they may be convinced it really WON'T get better. They may relate it to their own struggles, their own feelings. They may get confused, or feel more depressed. They may look at themselves and think, "Man, didn't he live the dream? Didn't he have everything? Endless talent, millions of fans, a loving family? What does that mean for me?"
But Williams' struggle is not their struggle. In fact, we may never know the depth and breadth of his struggles (and it's really not our business). This creates a necessary point of conversation with our youth. Suicide is still the third leading cause of death in young adults, and rates of anxiety and depression are incredibly high. The topic, however uncomfortable or anxiety provoking, should not be ignored. Especially now, when our kids are hearing these words on every news source, and struggling to understand and process them. Especially now, when 17 percent of female high school students and 10 percent of male students have considered suicide. Open the dialogue, and let them know it's okay to talk. Allow them to process the information out loud, and help them to separate themselves and their own struggles from the struggles of others. Remind them of the many people who overcome their struggles with mental illness, as well. Lastly, you can help your child to wrap their head around the news of Williams' passing by explaining that depression can cause a mental block from seeing and feeling hope -- but that just because one has times when they cannot see it, it doesn't mean it isn't here. There is always hope, and there is always help.
Learn more about a new endeavor to support teens with Anxiety and Depression at fadforteens.com
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.