Robin Williams

August 13, 2014

If early reports are correct, on Monday comedian/actor/motormouth genius Robin Williams became one of the roughly 39,000 Americans who die by suicide each year — roughly someone every 13 minutes. Mr. Williams’ media representative said he had been battling depression, a serious mental illness that affects about 25 million people every year (only half receive treatment for it), and stories also noted that he recently had checked himself back into rehab over concerns about his sobriety.

The news of his passing at age 63, and under such tragic circumstances, stunned a nation that loved to laugh with him in his TV appearances, his movies and his stand-up comedy routines. The bottom line to one ledger says his movies earned more than $3 billion in the U.S. But there was more to him, and his career, than that: He won an Academy Award for “Good Will Hunting,” and he won our hearts with “Dead Poets Society,” ”Mrs. Doubtfire,” ”Aladdin” and other performances.

Clearly, there are lessons in his bountiful life, and in his sad death.

His comedy was not lazy, and it more than hinted at a life of the mind. Accounts of his caring and steadfastness to friends, strangers and causes testify to a kindness that rained blessings on recipients. His willingness to share major struggles in his life, especially those involving substance abuse, indicates an even deeper generosity of spirit.

But being smart, being kind and being honest ultimately didn’t help with whatever led him to take his own life — and maybe the realization that it was too big for this seemingly successful person will drive home the realization that it’s too big for too many of the rest of us, too.

— Courier-Journal, Louisville