August 20, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
By now, you all have heard the news. Legendary funny-man Robin Williams died of apparently self-inflicted wounds. Suicide. He left behind an astonishingly versatile legacy of laughter, of drama, of indelible impressions and memorable, iconic characters that will live on forever.
His mentor and friend,Jonathon Winters, legend himself, would have been proud of what the student accomplished.
His first big break came as the well-intentioned alien of a thousand voices in Mork and Mindy (1978-1982) on the small screen. The Genie in Disney’s Aladdin (1992), was his favorite voice, animated role. He proved cross-dressing could be sweet and funny in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). he was the charismatic and innovative teacher we all would have liked to have had in Dead Poet’s Society (1989). The uplifting Radio DJ in Good Morning Vietnam (1987). His Academy Award winning turn as Sean Maguire, the Psychiatrist who befriends Matt Damon’ s savant Will in Good Will Hunting (1997) and helps him break through his inner demons. His absolute frenetic, inspired and haunting portrayals as creepy, homicidal loners in Insomnia (2002) and One Hour Photo (2002) will stick in our collective psyche.
All those legendary, intense, absolutely brilliantly-scary live stand-up comedy for over 4 decades may never be matched for their raw, all-consuming, intense power. So intense, that Hollywood critic Vincent Canby once wrote that “Robin’s creative process on stage was so intense, so raw that it seemed at any moment the process could reverse itself and one could witness an absolute meltdown.”
His range of roles was uplifting and life-affirming as well as dark, troubling and brooding. Even disturbing. Perhaps like their creator.
Robin starred in over 100 roles, some of them forgettable (Popeye), some complex (What Dreams May Come-1998), and some that he openly admitted he resented doing (TV’s-The Crazy Ones-2013) but as he also admitted, “Two messy divorces will suck you dry…I need the money.”
By all accounts, Mr. Williams was as gentle and sweet a soul as he was funny. As generous as he was talented. As caring as he was creative.
Shortly after his death his third wife Susan informed an adoring and grieving fan base that the comedic actor was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. This on top of what many knew was his on and off battles with drug and alcohol addictions. He had recently admitted himself into a Minnesota rehabilitation center (Hazelden Center) for depression and a renewed battle he feared he was losing wiith alcohol addiction. He had been clean and sober for over two decades.
Instagram pictures of Robin Williams just before his death betrayed a gaunt and aged man, not the energetic, nearly preternaturally so, of an icon who it seemed had an endless reserve of energy, passion and creative brilliance. A comedic comet impervious to burn-out.
Sadly, this was not the case.
But was his suicide avoidable? Was his suicide the result of drugs prescribed to combat his early stages of Parkinson’s Disease?
Robin’s close friend and Saturday Night Live alum Rob Schneider thinks so. He is publicly and loudly blaming Robins’ suicide on the side-effects of such drugs as Prozac and is pointing the finger right at Big Pharma.
Is this fair?
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that roughly 450,000 Americans die from slef-inflicted wounds, the vast majority of which are suffering from severe depression and are on some form of Selective Serontonin-Uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) drugs or part of a broad range of anti-depressant drugs now being prescribed to 1 in every 3 Americans currently from one degree to another.
We seem to be fast becoming a nation of depressed, heavily medicated folks who are at an increasingly higher risk to suffer from suicidal tendencies. Depression, diagnosed as a disease or as a “situation-induced,” irresistible, impulse strikes an alarming number of Americans every year. And that number seems to be growing.
Mr. Williams was in a particularly high range for the probability of suicide. White males aged 60 and over commit suicide at the highest rates in America. Those suffering from disease and battling various forms of addiction as he did are even higher.
Still. Critics like Mr. Schneider insist that the loosely regulated pharmaceutical industry in America with its pill-popping inducements are largely to blame. As Schneider rightfully asserts one of the disclosed side-effects of Prozac and other anti-depressant medications, especially for those at the highest risk of self-inflicted wounds is indeed suicide. A toxic medical mix if ever there was one.
The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), charged with regulating such drugs and making public disclosures and warnings about the known effects of taking such drugs issued a so-called “Black Box” warning years ago. But aggressive and highly-financed lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry seems to be paying off. At least for the manufacturers and distributors of such powerful narcotics. SSRI drugs are more widely distributed, prescribed and taken now than at any other point in our nation’s history
So, it seems to be at least a reasonable question to pose. Are we more depressed and in more need of powerful anti-depressant medication which may ironically be contributing to even more severe depression? Or, is the relative ease of over-the-counter anti-depressants and those professionally prescribed creating a nation of “walking zombies?” One step away from doing something rash, tragic and unalterable to ourselves and to those we love?
On the other hand, similarly high-profile, celebrity Parkinson’s patients like actor Michael J. Fox have been medicating to combat the ravages of Parkinson’s for years now and he is still upright and by all accounts, not suicidal. But then the adoring public isn’t necessarily privy to the darker moments such folks grapple with in their ever smaller windows of privacy.
Political pundits like Rush Limbaugh assert that Robin’s suicide can be blamed at the altar of liberalism itself. He argues that at the core of left-wing politics, such as those practiced by Mr. Williams is a “cult of cynicism, pessimism and self-loathing.” It was only a matter of time according to Mr. Limbaugh.
Robin Williams was 63 at the time of his passing. He leaves behind a wife, several kids and an adoring public that will always feel cheated we didn’t get one more laugh, one more smile, and couldn’t give one more approving nod at the brilliance of a one-of-a-kind entertainer and human being.
I’ll let him get the last words before we close the curtain one final time.
“You are only given one small spark of madness, you must never lose it.”
“Comedy is all about acting out your own, natural optimism.”
Robin Williams, July 21, 1951-August 11, 2014. Rest in Peace. You’ve more than earned the break.
For more information on mental health and mental health awareness week this year, please go to http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mental_illness_awareness_week