Last night when my sixteen year old son found out about the tragic death of comedian, Robin Williams, he posted on social media, “Good Night, Vietnam.” I thought his words were an appropriate tribute to someone who brought so many smiles to so many people, but personally struggled with demons that he could not conquer.
For much of his life, Williams battled with severe depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. The Washington Post this morning ran a story detailing the difficulty many comedians have with depression. In the article, they cited Arsenio Hall speaking with Whoopi Goldberg in an HBO Documentary, “You always hear that comics, the best of us, come from pain.” In William’s case, he was an incredibly talented comedian that brought so much joy to others, but harbored a darkness that many of us cannot fathom.
His death has reminded me how much more sensitive and vigilant I need to be when I encounter people struggling with depression. It is difficult to always know the symptoms of depression, but making myself more engaged in other’s lives is a good start. The better I know a person the more sensitive I can be to their emotional needs. Educating myself is a good start. Here is a good article I found through a colleague of mine that addresses bipolar disorder and suicide.
Also, I want to be more vigilant about helping people who battle with depression. So often, our world reacts to depression in a negative way as though the real problem is with the person not their illness. This kind of attitude only makes the situation worse and heaps on more reasons for a person to be depressed. We need to be more vigilant in providing professional counseling, coaching, medical treatment, and empowering those in our midst with love and support. We don’t need to belittle them or put them down for their struggles. We need to act more like Jesus, offering a loving and healing hand.
At NorthHaven Church, we have been talking for some time about the need in our community to provide a ministry for those individuals and families who struggle with depression and life struggles that lead to depression. The NorthHaven Care Network is currently working on some ideas that will possibly launch a new ministry that will provide the support people need. Please be praying for us as we seek out the right ministries.
Finally, on a personal note, one of my favorite Robin William’s movies is “Dead Poets Society.” Williams, playing poetry teacher John Keating told his students, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” Indeed. Thanks Robin for all the laughs and wise words, you will be dearly missed. To all those suffering from depression today, please know you are loved and cared for by someone. For all us who walk through life not knowing, but suspecting, offer a hug to someone today. You never know, it might just be what they need.