Keith A. Reynolds and Liah Long
Death is a normal part of life; we all have to go at some point. What was so shocking is the way our beloved clown, Robin Williams, left this worldly plane, suicide.
On Aug. 11 when Robin Williams was found dead in his California home, the immediate response to someone so close to so many hearts taking their own life seemed to be textbook examples of the different ways of dealing with grief. Thanks to social media it seemed that his fans shared their feelings of loss and betrayal with each other. As if the internet had coalesced into a giant support group.
Suicide is almost like a bad word; nobody wants to talk about it. Many people don’t even think about suicide until it touches them in some way. Unfortunately young, busy college students are increasingly at risk for suicide. Many Lorain County Community College students take classes, work, and have families. With so much to juggle, students become anxious and depressed.
When anxiety and depression are not treated or taken seriously they’ll only get worse. Before you know it, that anxious depressed student is feeling hopeless, and the possibility of suicide increases. It’s common that many young people who successfully commit suicide didn’t actually want to die. They may be crying out for help and nobody reaches them in time. Perhaps, if suicidal students realized it’s as easy as reaching out to a friend family member or mental health professional, the suicide rates would drop.
Suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students, according to a recent study conducted by the American College Health Association. Experts have also estimated that there are 1,100 suicides at colleges per year.
Quentin Paul Kuntz, LCCC’s crisis intervention counselor stated, “Students are at a high risk for suicide.” Kuntz also expressed that most suicidal people “don’t want to die, they want their pain to end” and that, realistically, “most people have thought of suicide” at one time in their lives. Suicide should not be a taboo topic, as that could prevent suicidal people from seeking help.
There are many options for students who are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, suicidal, or just need someone to talk to. Kuntz is always available in counseling to talk, or he can be reached at 1-800-995-5222 extension 4776. You can also call the Nord Stabilization Unit at 1-800-888-6161. The Nord Center has several locations in Lorain County and they are available to help 24/7. Kuntz also shared that some common signs that someone is suicidal include abnormal sleeping or eating patterns, depressed or withdrawn moods and saying cryptic things or giving away their possessions. Don’t be afraid to step in if you notice a friend is struggling. If you’re struggling yourself, don’t be afraid to reach out and seek the help that could end up saving your life.
Sadly, nothing will bring Robin Williams back to this earthly plane, but we can at least try to keep ourselves and our loved ones from suffering the same fate by utilizing the sources mentioned here.
It’s common knowledge that even the people who bring the world the most joy are just as if not more susceptible to the whirlpool of depression’s inky current. Many searched into his vast catalog of films, stand-up comedy routines, and interviews to find clues to the demons that haunted the jocular thespian.
In my experience with his filmography, I’ve found one character that I think casts an interesting light onto the man behind the jokes. Osric, the character he played in Kenneth Branagh’s spectacular Hamlet of 1996.
The connection between a manic stand-up comedian and the melancholy Dane with a nasty habit for introspection may seem ludicrous at first, but with a closer examination of Williams’ life and work the similarities become unavoidable.
Throughout his stand-up career Williams would often perform bits and pieces of Shakespearean plays in various character’s and celebrities’ voices. He would also improvise a play in the same style as the Bard based on suggestions from his audience.
It’s almost assured that he was exposed to the great Shakespearean acting styles while he was studying at Juilliard. Despite the inherent silliness of his style, within his chest beat the heart of a true thespian, and most all actors aspire to play one of Stratford’s favorite son’s characters. Those with true aspirations tend to choose Hamlet.
Let’s observe the similarities between the Prince of Denmark and our beloved Mork. Both appeared from the outside to be at the top of the world. Hamlet was the prince of a prosperous country fresh from military victories in Norway, Robin Williams was a well-respected actor and comedian with a beautiful family and a number of movies in post-production.
They both were afflicted with the burden of depression for reasons they could not share. Hamlet was haunted by the knowledge of his father’s murder by his uncle; Williams by the ravages of addiction, and the impending deterioration caused by Parkinson’s disease.
The thought of committing suicide even passes through the hero of one of the English language’s greatest masterpieces mind in this famous soliloquy from Act One, Scene Two:
O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Did such thoughts pass through Robin’s mind before he took his final bow on the stage of life?
In his performance as Osric in Branagh’s masterpiece, Williams played a common character in Shakespeare’s body of work, the empty-headed flatterer. Hamlet can barely hold his contempt for this sycophant in check and openly antagonizes him. Teasing him about his adherence to the formalities of court while cracking jokes at his expense to his school buddy, Horatio.
One can’t imagine the great comedian as the butt of a spoiled nobleman’s joke in the real world, but therewithin lays the genius of his casting in what seems such a menial role. It seems Williams was at his best when playing against type. His work in Dead Poet’s Society, Good Will Hunting, and What Dreams May Come (the title itself a quotation from Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy) was lauded as masterful and sensitive in a way it would be hard to imagine Mork performing.
The change from comic to serious is mirrored in our Elizabethan protagonist as well. When questioned about his melancholy by the pedantic advisor to the king, Polonius, Hamlet morphs from a brooding warrior of vengeance to a downright laughable caricature of madness.
Robin Williams’ performance of Osric ends with one of the most famous scenes in the play. He acts as the referee in the doomed fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, showing that even a fool has power when the nobility are hampered by their bloodlust. One of his final lines is actually my favorite of the whole play. When there is disagreement over whether the prince has struck his opponent it is the buffoon who must stand in judgment of royalty, and declares “A hit, a very palpable hit.” All with the beautiful and familiar twinkle in his blue eyes that the movie going public has come to know and love.
Shortly after this line, the play ends and most every named character is dead, either from poison or stabbing or both. Only a few people are left standing, one of them being Osric. This was a fate we all imagined for Robin, but sadly it was not to be.
It seems that the signs of depression are present throughout history. Whether you’re examining a 414-year-old play or the life of one of our most respected celebrities, suicide is prevalent in all walks of life. Sadly though, the act of discussing it has not lost its taboo status.