A Life Too Short

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Rolf B. Gainer, Ph.D. Diplomate ABDA

Rolf B. Gainer, PhD

Robin Williams’ death from a suspected suicide stunned me when I saw the news flash on my iPhone. He had recently been back to rehab to address aspects of his long standing problems with addiction and he had always been candid about his struggles with depression and referred to both problems in his sometimes startling comedy routines which would have me rolling with laughter. He had a way of putting his personal issues on the table and using them as subjects in his humor that was just unbelievable. But, these issues must have had a dark side that we never saw and perhaps accumulated internally for him. We will never know what caused Robin Williams to end his life and we can only speculate about problems which became insurmountable for him. The world has lost a great and talented actor with a unique capacity to use his wit and personal viewpoint “to cut to the chase” and get us laughing about life predicaments.

From a mental health perspective, Robin Williams’ death highlights the importance of addressing mental health and substance abuse problems; not just once, but on an ongoing basis throughout a person’s life. Certainly, Mr. Williams had the best treatment available, yet whatever drove his troubled emotional states and triggered his substance abuse remained simmering throughout his lifetime. Yet, with this backdrop of internal pain, he went on to star in films that my generation can’t forget: Good Morning Vietnam; Dead Poets Society; The Fisher King; Good Will Hunting; Popeye; The World According to Garp; Mrs. Doubtfire; Patch Adams; Bicentennial Man; Insomnia; Night at the Museum; Aladdin  and others. His character portrayals were right there for me at those times in my life when I needed to see the world from a different perspective.

Robin Williams was a few years younger than me at the time of his death. I wish he could have stayed with us longer as we all could have benefitted from another 20-30 years of his sharing his view of life.

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