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Posted August 13, 2014 by Tim Wells in General

So You’re Tired of Hearing About Robin Williams

I get it. I do. Your Facebook feed is full of tributes, memes, and memorials dedicated to Robin Williams. You can’t turn on the TV or read an article on the Web without seeing a dozen references to his life and death. You’re getting sick of the hero worship for someone who made the conscious decision to take their own life. Especially when there are newsworthy atrocities happening at this very moment, around the globe.

So your reaction is to ignore the multitude of stories and blog posts about Robin Williams. Or maybe you respond by increasing the number of non-Williams-related stories you share to Facebook. Or maybe you even unfriend some of the more exuberant linkers, cursing them under your breath for being media-led sheep.

I’m going to phrase this as gently as I can.

There’s a good chance you’re a hypocrite.

Over the last couple of decades, whenever there has been a mass shooting at a school, the media have descended like hungry buzzards. The tragedies are immediately politicized, with some calling for more gun control, and others calling for better school security.

Eventually, some news outlet makes the connection that in every one of these instances, the murderers have been deeply disturbed individuals with a history of under-treated mental illness. And for a week or two, the entire country asks the right questions. How could someone get to this point? Why didn’t more people see the warning signs? Why didn’t this person get the treatment they so obviously needed? How can we stop this from ever happening again?

The term “national conversation” gets used a lot in times like these. “We need to come together. To have a national conversation. Put aside our differences and come up with a solid solution.”

But once the media lose interest in the story, so does the rest of the country. We go back to arguing our pet topics, out on the periphery of the issue, until the next time we are jolted back into the conversation by a new tragedy. It’s a vicious and pointless cycle that leaves people mourning, and wondering why we aren’t making more of an effort to finally put a stop to it, once and for all.

This time around, it wasn’t a school full of innocent children at the whim of a madman. It was just a comedian, ending his own existence. But the questions being asked are the same. How could someone get to this point? Why didn’t more people see the warning signs? Why didn’t this person get the treatment they so obviously needed? How can we stop this from ever happening again?

Because at the heart of Robin Williams’ suicide, there was a person dealing with a mental illness. An illness that blackened his reality and led him to devalue life.

And people are talking about it. Lots of people. There has been a surge of new articles and blog posts talking about living with depression. That “national conversation” that everybody is always calling for after a tragedy? That’s happening right now.

But Hollywood is making it all about Robin Williams.

So what? You’re only willing to participate in the discussion if it’s on your terms? You’re going to stubbornly dig your heels in and refuse to entertain the idea that any of this foolishness could result in something positive?

Because that’s what I’m seeing a lot of. Politicization. People who are more interested in being right than in affecting real change.

You don’t have to condone what Williams’ did. You don’t have to agree with his reasons or his beliefs. Hell, you don’t even have to like the guy. But being angry that people are talking about it and the underlying issues behind it? Well, you might want to double-check your reasons and motivations.

Or maybe we should just wait for the next loss of life brought on by mental illness. Yeah, let’s do that. I’m sure we’ll figure all of this out next time.

Tim Wells

Dad, husband, gamer, blogger, geek. Not necessarily in that order.