If you’re like me and currently going through medical school, chances are you were a child of the 80s/90s. Which meant watching a lot of Robin Williams growing up. It’s not often I give pause regarding celebrity deaths, but his made me sad.
It’s sad to think that Robin Williams’ issues got the better of him. He was Genie, Keating, Peter Pan, Alan Parrish, Sean Maguire, and Patch Adams…to name a very few.
He made me laugh, he made me cry, he made me marvel at his shear amount of talent, such as his monologue of flatulence while depicting a colonoscopy on his Live on Broadway show.
And now he makes me think. Hard. On the issue of mental health. Again. Even behind the brightest of smiles and infectious of laughs can hide turmoil. Like the old joke ends…”But Doctor, I am Pagliacci!”
Mental illness is something silent, something scary, and something hard to understand. I think it’s hard to convey as well. Rarely does it enter the discussion until a big death like this and rarely does focus stick. I don’t think we want to think about things we can’t understand easily, so we end up making the whole issue taboo and then things just fade from attention. People who are truly suffering often suffer silently and alone. I can’t say anything at all of Robin Williams’ mental state, but if he was suffering silently, then others can be too.
Of course this blog is about medical school and mental well-being, depression, and burn out are all such real issues. We all know it. Yet again the unease and taboo creeps up and the walls come up.
I guess if there’s any lesson that can be gleaned from is the crushing nature of depression, substance abuse, and destitute nature of mental illness. I aim to remember this great icon in the characters that he breathed life into.
Take care of yourselves and each other.