For about 15 minutes yesterday, our office stood still. When the news broke about Robin Williams alleged suicide, I could hear the bustle of different offices naming off their favorite Williams’ flicks: Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, and the list goes on. I’m not a crier, but I have to admit that the news definitely brought some tears to my eyes.
Most of us will look on his work fondly, and cherish the man who made us laugh, cry, and inspire us for decades. One of my Facebook friends said it best, “His life may have ended in tragedy, but he left a body of work that few could hope to match. Today might be a sad day, but he is responsible for a hell of a lot more happy days.”
After the news settled down, the question that the world was left with was “why?” How could a man who brought so much laughter into the world have been so sad at the end? The truth is, we may never have an answer, but I think that might be one of the final gifts that Robin Williams leaves us with.
Depression and suicide are not topics openly discussed in the world. In fact, this is probably the first time that I’ve ever personally written about it. Williams’ death started the hard conversations that need to happen to save a life.
Maria Shriver took to Facebook and posted “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” This is the message that most people are clinging to right now, and I think it’s a great message to spread.
Twenty years ago, the world wasn’t as connected as it is today. I’ve been reading articles and posts all night and morning, and seeing comments from suicide prevention lines and users banding together from across the country. Social media is helping shine a light on something that is very hard to talk about, and giving people who are feeling hopeless the platform to reach out.
In the last 24 hours, more than 70 million people have been reached with the keyword Robin Williams and 8 million users with Suicide Prevention on Twitter alone. And the numbers are growing each second.
The power of technology amazes me almost as much as the power of laughter. From behind a computer, people are more apt to reach out and be open about their struggles. And they can find someone, or a group of people, across the world who know what they are going through.
Thank you, Robin Williams, for being a part of my childhood. And for reminding the rest of the world, and me, that social media shouldn’t only be used for selfies and selling products, but should also act as a platform for change and awareness.
For our Fresno readers, if you need help or are looking for more information, visit Fresno Survivors of Suicide Loss.
If you or anyone you know is suffering, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and offers a trained, local counselor available around-the-clock.
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