Dear Robin Williams,
Too often the glare of the spotlight blinds us from recognizing the depth of our sorrow.
Did you know that every 40 seconds a person in the world commits suicide? That’s according to a report published by the World Health Organization, which developed a comprehensive report to discuss tragic and preventable deaths that occur across the globe. When news of your death broke, I was stunned. I, like many people across the globe, appreciated the laughter you evoked in us all.
You lived a life under the microscope of a society that often does not want to discuss mental health and the struggles that stem from depression. In the silence, we just hope that somehow we will find something worth living for. You were viewed first as a comedian, an actor, a philanthropist, and a person whose talents allowed you to portray a variety of characters and voices. Lastly, you were a human being who had to endure the pressures that stem from fame, overcome addiction, and of course, the thoughts that often run through the mind of those suffering from depression.
You spent decades making people laugh, giving us an escape from our own reality and the struggles we were experiencing. You lived your life in such a way that we often forgot that you were first and foremost human. It has taken me a long time to finish this letter because I did not want to publish it at the height of the entire buzz centered on your death. I thought that would be in poor taste and I didn’t want to write this letter to you just to generate traffic to a website, but rather, to use whatever platform I have to discuss the importance of speaking up and speaking out.
Our silence can be deadly. Whenever I feel my lowest, I always reach out to a friend because I know that if I want to get through the low point, I have to speak the truth of its existence. When I made the decision to no longer pursue perfection, I made a commitment to living authentically. While this letter to you will not change anything, I hope it encourages a dialogue between others. In the silence too many dreams have died. In the silence too many hopes have gone unrecognized. In the silence, I have sat with my feelings and felt overwhelmed. But now I dare to share my story in the hopes that speaking it aloud will help others realize they are not alone. Robin, I hope you know that you were not alone in your silence.
Thanks to you and your talent, growing up, Mrs. Doubtfire was the first time I saw any representation of the gay community and what some might consider “drag”. My favorite scene was when your character began their transformation into becoming Mrs. Doubtfire. So thank you for leaving behind decades worth of entertainment, of art, for us to remember you by.
For whoever might read this letter, please don’t let your silence kill you. Audre Lorde said it best, “your silence will not protect you.”
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.