I did not know Robin Williams personally nor did I even know anything about his personal life until after his death. I did not know that he had a wife and a daughter and I did not know that he struggled with depression and addiction. Like many others, I knew him only as the characters he played in movies; thus, I reflect today on my favourite movies: Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, and my most favourite, Dead Poets Society.
In each of the above movies Robin Williams plays characters who inspire other people: hospital patients, children, counselees, and students. Each of these characters has inspired me. I also want to inspire the hurting, the young, my children, and the students entrusted to me. I want to be a father, a professor, a teacher, and a mentor who inspires others to be themselves, to be who God is calling them to be.
And one brief word about depression and suicide since the death of Robin Williams has revived that conversation. I believe that depression and other mental illness is like cancer and other serious illness. There are different types and different levels of severity and intensity. Some people are miraculously cured, others are in remission, others learn to cope with it in various ways, others survive with the help of medical intervention, and some–like Robin Williams–finally succumb to the illness and die. Ultimately, people who struggle with serious illness need the loving care and attention of other people. I’ve been in both places.