I've had a surprisingly good day today considering the terribly sad news I woke up to this morning.
The news of Robin Williams' death hit me hard, not least because it means one of the world's greatest comedic artists - the man who filled my childhood with laughter - is no longer around, but because his death is suspected to have been suicide as a result of his long standing battle with depression.
Whilst I cannot claim to know how it feels to live with depression, mental illness is no mystery to me. Not only have I seen the very real effects of depression on some of my closest friends, but I now work in mental health managing contracts for the NHS.
I was not ignorant of Robin Williams' depression and addiction, but I don't think I'm alone in saying that I thought he had beaten his demons, or at least I had no idea how bad they actually were. That's the nature of mental illness though, it largely remains a very private, internalised battle, hidden until someone is brave enough to talk about it, or tragedies like this bring it into the limelight.
I cannot imagine the pain that his family are feeling right now, but I hope that they find some comfort in the knowledge that he was deeply loved for the genius he brought to Hollywood and will be greatly missed by millions. I will remember him for his Oscar winning performance in Good Will Hunting, how it moved me to tears, and for the hours of fun and laughter he brought to me in all the different guises he mastered so brilliantly, and not for the tragic circumstances surrounding his death.
For those who choose not to remember him this way, but instead have the guile to call him 'selfish', I hope that you take this opportunity to do some research into mental illness, to speak to someone with depression, and then reconsider your judgement of a man who was, in every sense of the word, brilliant. May he find peace in another world, a world where he is happy.