I’ve been angry these past couple of weeks after I heard about Robin Williams’ suicide. My anger is not directed at him but at those who were callous enough to call him selfish, cowardly or worse for choosing when to leave the world.
Calling Mr. Williams selfish because of the mistaken belief that he did not choose his children and loved ones over death, or cowardly for resorting to what they erroneously called the “easy way out”, is cruel, insensitive, self-righteous and ignorant. Cruel and insensitive to the family and friends who not only lost a loved one but are now being told that they were “not enough” to keep Mr. Williams alive. Self-righteous for concluding that like them, who most likely had never suffered from or experienced depression, a depressive person should be able to overcome the onslaught of depression just by thinking of their loved ones. Ignorant because they have not bothered to find out what people with depression go through.
I know that I may be harsh on some of the critics who may have spoken out bitterly because of their trauma of being left behind by a suicide. I can sympathize with them. I know what it is to be that person left behind. It’s an extremely difficult experience to deal with and to try to understand why someone would rather end their life than stay with us. But maybe some of us will never understand, and maybe it’s not about us.
From the comments I’ve read, most of the harsh detractors had not experienced major depression. They have mistaken personal struggles and difficulties, sadness, loneliness, and even boredom for depression. Unless one has gone through the never-ending darkness, the suffocating weight, the relentless despondency, the crushing hopelessness and the bottomless void that seems to just sit and wait for us to fall, one cannot understand what can drive a person to end his or her life, despite the abundance of love, hope and support around him or her. That is what depression is like for me.
For the critics who spoke out but not because of a personal loss or understanding of major depression, what is their excuse? They do not need to have experienced depression in order to be kind yet they were not kind. Can they not simply have offered support to the grieving family? If they didn’t want to do that, then can they not have chosen to be silent? Often, the best choice we can make is to hold our tongues out of respect and consideration for others. Is that such a difficult choice to make?
These critics have made it a question of choice. But how did they exercise their choice? I find them hypocritical for condemning Mr. Williams and other suicides for purportedly not making the right choice, while themselves making a conscious choice to show no empathy, sympathy, compassion or basic consideration for Mr. Williams and his family, and making a deliberate decision to be cruel, spiteful, heartless and sanctimonious. Rather than putting themselves in Mr. Williams’ shoes to try to comprehend what had driven his actions, even if they may not agree or arrive at the same conclusion, they have self-importantly placed Mr. Williams in their own shoes and conceitedly concluded that he should have done what they would have done, even though they have no inkling of what he was going through or, standing in his shoes, how they would have acted. It was so much easier to force Mr. Williams to walk in their shoes than it is for them to walk in his. They are the ones who chose the easy way out.
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view …
until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee)