Robin Williams and Suicide

LIke many people, I am deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams.  He brought joy to so many people; its a genuine loss.  What touched most people was not just his humor, but his naturalremediesfordepressionhumanity.  I enjoyed his films, and his humor. I may not have approved of everything he did or said, but he was a kind, gentle person, and we as a society have been better off for his presence in it.

One of the things I have observed with dismay, has been the people leveling criticism of Robin because he chose to end his life.  One commentator called him a coward.  Others were just as unkind.  What comments like that tell me is that they don’t understand the first thing about people who contemplate suicide.  They act as if they vilify suicide and those who commit it, they are somehow teaching others not to do it.  It really doesn’t help.

People who commit suicide, for the most part, are not cowards.  Suicide happens most often, when a person’s pain exceeds their ability and resources to cope with their pain.  People who poo-poo emotional pain have never experienced the depths it can go.  I really can’t describe it, but there is an emotional pain that can hurt worse than any physical pain.  When a person experiences ongoing pain like that, taking a tylenol won’t bring relief.  Nothing does.  When you go through that kind of pain, all you want to do is end the pain.  Its at that point that suicide looks like a good option.  I’m not saying its a good option, its not.  But it can be tempting because all you want to do is stop the pain.  You can be fine one moment, and then think, if I did this or that, the pain will all be over. 

Many people with terminal illnesses who want to end their lives because of the pain seek euthanasia.  While this is not encouraged, people do understand it.   People who are in excruciating emotional pain find themselves wanting to do the same.  The difference is that there are meds that can help, and along with therapy, a person can move beyond the pain.  Depression is not terminal.  It can and should be treated.  In any case, a person who is overcome with unbearable pain should be looked upon with compassion and empathy, not vilified and condemned.  Reaching out to someone in pain, and helping them get help can save their life.  Criticizing and condemning people in pain is cruel.  Such heartlessness is a sin.

 

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5 thoughts on “Robin Williams and Suicide

  1. Right on, Rabbi!

    In my own case, I found that not only did the emotional pain hurt worse than any physical pain, as you said, but there was a futility and a hopelessness that went with it. I had brought the mess upon myself, and there was absolutely nothing that I could do to make it right, hence the hopelessness.

    To paraphrase what you so rightly said, the critics are completely out to lunch on this one. You have to have gone through it to understand, and nothing the self-styled experts can say does any good at all.

    As to Robin Williams, he may have been the greatest comedian that ever lived, and it is a shame that he himself could not accept that. Nobody knows what went on in his mind, so nobody has any business pontificating about it. All we can do is mourn his passing.

  2. Thank you, for people like yourself, because, I am like Mr Williams. For years I have contemplated the thought, and it hasn’t been easy, especially when you’re putting up a front so that you don’t want others to know, but I am on medication for depression now, and have been for over a year. I see a therapist at least once a month. It had been helping

  3. Amen, amen and amen! When the pain from within cascades into life like waters down rocks and ledges, the rush is deafening, the spray is stinging and the pool at the bottom threatens to overwhelm and drown. Death may not be what you are searching for, but relief from the pain is all you can hope for…even if it means death. Thank you, Dr. Schiffman. You are such a gentle soul.

  4. Thank you, Michael!

    You seem to echo, what the Lord says about His anger.

    For I will not be hostile forever or perpetually angry,
    for then man’s spirit would grow faint before me,
    the life-giving breath I created (Isa.57:16).

    When a person feels like his or her fate is hostile to them,
    there is a comforting word of God that He is compassionate and
    His anger is not perpetual. He manifests His mercy upon all flesh and blood.
    And it is evident for those who try to come to know the Lord.
    Such people would find any trouble as educational means believing that
    there is a greater relief at the end.

    “Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here…” (Lk. 16:25)

    As for the rest, maybe it is just natural to stay biased against suicide.
    They condemn homicide, following mitzvah.
    But when they over-indulge to extend their condemnation upon the
    personality of the person, they break ethical norms. And there comes the third wave –
    condemnation upon those who condemn the suicider. I think there can be even the fourth and the fifth…

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