Celebrity death overshadows mental illness

By Amy Magnuson/[email protected]
Copy Editor

“His beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever, the glow will be so bright it will warm your heart,” Billy Crystal spoke these words as tribute to the late Robin Williams at this year’s Emmys. Williams was an actor, a comedian, a friend and, surprisingly, somebody who struggled with depression.  He passed away on August 11 when he tragically took his own life.

Without a doubt, Williams’ death was a sad, unfortunate and unexpected loss. He spent his life making others laugh but he himself was hiding his longtime struggle with depression. That raises the concern that if it could happen to somebody who appeared to be so happy and successful, it could happen to anybody.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 121 million people throughout the world have some form of depression. Any given year, over 14 million adult Americans experience clinical depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  Another statistic says that one in ten adults have struggled with depression. Take an average college classroom, that’s a handful of people that you see on a weekly basis who deal with depression. Most of the time, it’s not noticeable.  

After Williams’ passing, social media was flooded with statuses, tweets and pictures of him.Thousands of people were affected by the loss of Williams, somebody they had never met or seen in person. His death would have virtually no effect on their daily life. Imagine if it had been a classmate, a neighbor, or a loved one.

The response to his death was extreme; even President Obama gave tribute to his life of comedy. His death was tragic but one celebrity doesn’t necessarily deserve so much attention because of something that literally millions of people struggle with. According to an article by the Huffington Post, there are 34,000 suicides each year. Shouldn’t each of these suicides be given the same attention and respect as Williams’? Why does his death rank above theirs?

It shouldn’t take the death of one celebrity to make people care about something that has affected millions of people and taken thousands of lives. His death was sad but the best thing that can come from it is awareness. A Facebook comment found on a picture of Genie from Aladdin put it well: Don’t be afraid to seek out help. Depression is hard and no one should deal with it alone.