Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Few Things To Note About Suicide and Robin Williams

[TRIGGER WARNING: MENTAL ILLNESS, SUICIDE, TRANSMISOGYNY, RACISM]

I know a lot of people are grieving about the death of Robin Williams, which has been ruled a suicide. It's important in times like this to find support and express your feelings in a healthy manner. That being said, there are things you need to keep in mind when sharing those feelings in a public forum like social media accounts.


  1. Robin Williams had bipolar disorder. Talking about depression is fine, but don't leave out his specific diagnosis. People with bipolar disorder need awareness as well.
  2. Do not demonize people who have committed suicide. Do not say it's the coward's way out. You may think you're discouraging people from attempting suicide, but you're not. You're making people who have attempted suicide feel worse.
  3. Be very careful about the language you use. For example, the tweet from the Academe saying "Genie, you're free" was a really bad idea, because many suicidal people already feel that death would free them. That tweet will inevitably result in more suicides, especially since suicides increase after high profile celebrity suicides.
  4. If you're unsure if some language you're thinking of using could encourage or demonize suicide, take the safe route and just don't.
  5. Tag discussions of mental illness and ESPECIALLY suicide whenever possible. Suicide is obviously a very triggering topic.
  6. Be careful about which movies you use as an example of great Robin Williams' works. Remember that Mrs. Doubtfire is transphobic and should not be publicly celebrated. Aladdin was also racist. If you want to share something involving one or both of these movies, at least add a note acknowledging their harmful elements.

That said, I hope Robin Williams' family can find the support and closure they need. And I hope everyone who loved and looked up to him can find the same. He really was a great man - one of the least problematic faves I can think of. I didn't always care for his mannerisms, but he made a lot of people's lives better.

I also hope that the people he harmed, especially through doing Mrs. Doubtfire, can navigate okay through all of this. Don't be shy about looking for support yourselves. If you need someone to listen to you as you express negative emotions about Robin Williams, feel free to contact me. I recognize that you might feel very alone right now, but there are other people who recognize the awful transmisogyny that film perpetuated and I am one of them.

And, of course, here is a list of state suicide hotlines. There's also a site you can go to to chat with someone if you're in crisis.

2 comments:

Cat said...

do you have a source on his diagnosis? I've read conflicting reports.

Lindsey Weedston said...

Oh, really? I haven't looked at a lot of sources talking about his specific mental illness. Boston Globe says bipolar, but after a Google search I'm seeing a lot of places saying it was either/or.