Entertainment News

  • 13 August 2014, 8:12

Robin Williams Death: Spotlight On Depression

Robin Williams may have had a sparkling public persona but behind the jokes and impressions was a man who was struggling to cope with a serious disease.

The actor's representative confirmed the 63-year-old had been in rehab in recent weeks to try to "fine-tune" his sobriety.

But it was depression, which often goes hand-in-hand with substance abuse, that appears to have led him to take his own life.

Williams' death has prompted a broad conversation about the disease and prevalence of mental illness.

The Dead Poets Society star was often candid about his struggles with sobriety and depression and while outwardly appearing to have it all, he admitted he felt "alone and afraid" while working and would turn to the bottle for solace.

The fact he was so open about his demons may have led the public to think he had them under control.

But Dr Josh Klapow, clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama, told Sky News addiction takes its toll on the body.

"As the individual's life becomes increasingly focused on the substance of choice, the remainder of their life (friends, family, job, recreation) goes away," he said.

"Social isolation, poor physical health, emotional highs and lows from addiction are also triggers for depression."

Williams' death shocked the world and it is not known if his closest friends and family were aware of a deterioration in his mental health.

The star's daughter,Zelda, said: "While I'll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there's minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions."

But she hit out at those who have criticised his suicide: "As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car."

Dr Klapow said it is important people do not see suicide as a selfish act: "You have to think about the person with depression from their perspective and not yours. They want to die to alleviate their pain and the pain they believe they are causing others."

In January, researchers from the University of Oxfordfound that comedians show high levels of psychotic personality traits.

Professor Gordon Claridge, of the University of Oxford's Department of Experimental Psychology, said: "The creative elements needed to produce humour are strikingly similar to those characterising the cognitive style of people with psychosis - both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."

Comedians Kenneth Williams, Lenny Bruce and Stephen Fry are just a few of the other names who have spoken about their personal demons.

Dr Klapow said there are some reasons why high-profile figures might be susceptible to depression but it is important to remember that it can affect anyone.

"While there are lifestyle factors that can put them at risk, such as uncertainty about the future, pressure and stress from constant scrutiny, highs and lows from an unstable job environment etc, for every star we see who struggles with depression, we need to think about them as representing a larger segment of the population who is also struggling, " he said.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 08457 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org