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Iconic Actor and Comedian, Robin Williams, Dies at Age 63

It was with great sadness that I read that Robin Williams, the iconic Mork and Mindy star, Mrs. Doubtfire and standup comedian, died at the age of 63.  Early reports suggest that Mr. Williams died from suicide, and many are aghast to learn of Williams’ apparently deep depression when he made so many others laugh.  Sadly, Mr. Williams battled demons for many years, including drug and alcohol addiction, but had a stretch of nearly two decades of sobriety until 2006 when he relapsed.  Mr. Williams entered rehab in 2008, deeply ashamed of his perceived failure and publicly spoke out in interviews with the press of his feelings of despair.  His feelings of doubt, despair and failure never disappeared, it seems, but he leaves behind an unparalleled legacy of comedic genius and riveting performances.

Depression: Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

Mr. Williams battle and untimely demise highlight the importance of recognizing that depression is often a silent killer.  Depression is still a taboo topic in many circles, and individuals who suffer from it are implicitly instructed to keep it to themselves, or worse, told to “buck up” and stop feeling so sad.  Depression is a serious condition, however, characterized by deep sadness, a loss of interest in activities, and sometimes withdrawal from family and friends.  Depression isn’t a weakness or something that you can just “snap out off” and may sometimes require long-term care.  Most people feel better with medication, counseling and other support networks, but depression is a virulent battler and will sometimes plague some people for years or even a majority of their life.

How to Tell the Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Depression is a common disorder, affecting about 16 million adults in the U.S.  But how can you tell if you’re depressed, or how can you be there for your friends or family members that may be suffering from depression?  Sadness is a normal human emotion and usually comes in response to a life event or circumstance such as a divorce, getting stood up on a date, or losing a loved one.  Sadness relents over time; it doesn’t stay forever or even from moment to moment.  Sadness could be temporarily relieved by hearing a joke or participating in a fun activity, and although it may still linger, it doesn’t prevent someone from engaging in life altogether.  In contrast, depression makes it difficult if not impossible to enjoy life; it may usher in suicidal ideation, cause eating or weight changes, or result in psychosis.  Two compare sadness and depression is like comparing apples to oranges.  Hopefully, we can learn that depression isn’t something to be ashamed of and help prevent tragedies like the death of Robin Williams.

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