Depression… It’s no laughing matter

By Andrew Taylor


A COUPLE WEEKS AGO on Tuesday August 12, as I was driving to work, I turned on the radio and heard the very disappointing news that Robin Williams had passed away. Honestly, I was initially in disbelief until I looked at a couple of different news websites all stating the same thing…that Robin Williams had indeed passed away.

Since then, every time I pause and think about this saddening news, the part that makes me grimace the most is that his death has been labeled as suicide. How can a guy who is thought of by many to be one of the funniest people to ever live, commit suicide?

You might think that one who has so many amusing observations to share and with the talent to invoke others to cry out in laughter would feel completely blissful inside. It’s an incident that triggers much reflection and generates the very important discussion of DEPRESSION.

Robin Williams had been entertaining and making people laugh since the 1970s. He had done stand up comedy, television, movies, and Broadway. He played Popeye, Peter Pan, a maid, a psychiatrist, a genie, two US presidents, a radio DJ, a priest, a doctor, an alien and a host of other characters.

He devoted his kind heart, time and energy to strangers by lending his comedic prowess and celebrity to US troops stationed overseas during times of war. He was friends with very high profile celebrities. He had made loads of money because of his stardom and some 40 years spent in the entertainment industry. He had a house in a very beautiful and wealthy area of California. Above all this, he had a wife and children.

One might look at all of Mr Williams’ talents and achievements, and think that he just had a supreme and perfect life. But, what could make someone with all of these great accomplishments fatally hurt themselves? DEPRESSION.

It has been said that Mr Williams was battling severe depression. The Oxford Dictionary labels “depression” as, “feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy; dejection”.

When someone is depressed, they are deeply sad, possessing a loss of courage. They may think they are worthless and that there is no reason for them to continue living. It affects children, teenagers, and adults.

There are various things that victims of depression may do to cope with it. They may inflict pain by cutting themselves. Some may stay inside their house all day never going out into the daylight, while others may wear black or dark colored clothes everyday. Some may display angry and aggressive behavior by picking fights or bullying. Then of course there are those who take drugs or drink in order to mask the pain of depression.

Many people believe that the school shootings which have occurred in the United States over the past several years, such as Columbine, have been related to the presence of depression within the shooters. So, people may be outward in their behaviors, or they may be more reserved about them. Mr Williams was very outspoken about his abuse of alcohol and drugs which some assume was his choice method to deal with his depression.

Depression is a condition that one may have which can sometimes be miscalculated or ignored by their family and friends. While that person is suffering inside, their loved ones may brush it off by saying, “Oh, well she’s just a quiet person”, or “He’s just going through the trials of being a teenager”.

But yes, while some people are just simply quiet souls and while teenagers do experience many challenges during their teenage years as a part of their pathway into adulthood, we should not ignore possible signs we may see.

What can we learn from this tragedy of Robin Williams’ passing to keep his death from going in vain? The first thing is to recognise the problem.

If you are feeling worthless, or like you don’t deserve to be alive, then please tell someone. If you are being bullied, or made fun of, inform someone about it and don’t just allow it to continue. It could be a parent, sibling, teacher, aunt, uncle, cousin, or a friend. Tell anybody whom you feel close to. It’s important to know that it’s okay to feel sad and unhappy sometimes.

It’s okay to want to be by yourself. It’s perfectly fine if you’re not the most popular kid in school who has all the friends. Don’t compare yourself to others. But when it gets to the point where this is an everyday occurrence or you start possessing the desire to physically harm yourself or others, then that’s not okay.

Prevent yourself from getting to a point of self-destruction by talking to others about issues you may be facing. Express your pains, challenges, sadnesses, and dislikes in positive ways such as poetry and spoken word, writing stories, playing an instrument, writing song lyrics, drawing, painting, singing, or playing sports.

Many of the famous bands, singers, and sports figures we hear on the radio and see on TV have used their unhappiness and struggles to develop their talents. OWN YOUR LIFE! When you take charge of your misery and hurt and channel it into something that benefits you, helping you to grow as a person, you become the true master of your life. At that point nobody can stop you no matter how rude or hurtful they are towards you because you are the one in charge…nobody else.

For those of us who may notice that a friend or family member is always looking sad, unhappy, or keeps to themselves all the time, then let’s check in with them and ask them if everything is ok. Treat them to lunch, to some cendol, or invite them to exercise with you. Have a conversation with them. SMILE at them! Show them that you care and think they are a beautiful human being. They may be completely fine, but at least you are making an initiative to help if it’s not. They will see you as someone who cares, and as someone who thinks they are important.

These tiny acts may seem like small, mundane things but…THEY COULD SAVE A LIFE.

Andrew Taylor hails from Los Angeles, California. He is a Fulbright Fellow under the United States Department of State, teaching here in Malaysia for the second year in a row.
Last year he taught at a Vokasional school in Perak and this year he has felt so blessed to be living and teaching in Sarawak at SMK Siburan outside of Kuching.
He loves working with young people, but especially the youth of Malaysia. For Andrew, it’s an everyday occurrence to be inspired by his students and their unique inquisitiveness, kindness, and eagerness to gain new knowledge. Their smiles and sunny disposition are what make his days beautiful.
Sarawak and its people, culture, food, and splendid scenery, have become a place that Andrew truly loves and he feels fortunate to be able to call it his home.


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