Robin Williams' suicide: Putting blame on his wife is irresponsible
The world lost a beautiful light last August when comedic legend, Robin Williams, tragically chose to take his own life. But while approaching the anniversary of his death should reopen a dialogue about depression awareness and suicide prevention, headlines today reflect blame instead.
Scanning the news, one particular headline stands out — an "exclusive" detailing all of the ways Robin Williams' wife, Susan Schneider, is purportedly to blame for her husband's death.
And this blame game, well, it's a dangerous one.
For starters, the claims are vague at best. Schneider, the source says, wasn't all she seemed to be. She did "odd things" leading up to Williams' suicide. She edged out his children. She went on vacation without him. The article relies on baseless speculation, reworded repeatedly to suit the click-bait title.
Most pressingly, though, the danger lies in the blame itself. Williams had long been vocal about his struggle with depression. More than once, his battle with mental illness had sent him spiraling into the dark recesses of his troubled mind. This we know because he told us as much.
Blaming Schneider for her husband's suicide implies that the person in control of Williams' depression was Schneider and, to a certain extent, even Williams — blaming Schneider suggests that, had she not been in his life, Williams would likely have chosen a different path.
The truth about clinical depression, however, is that no one is "in control."
According to the Archives of General Psychiatry, major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults in a given year, and depression is the cause of more than two-thirds of suicides annually.
Consider that for a moment.
Depression isn't something one can just shake off. It is a mood disorder that pervades every part of a being — altering everything from the way you feel to your appetite. Instead of seeing life through rose-colored glasses, the lens of your life's eye is clouded and dark.
People who suffer from major depression often struggle with the unbearable weight of believing they are a burden to those who love them. They feel life is no longer worth living and that everyone would be "better off" without them.
It is impossible for those looking from the outside in to understand, because it isn't rational. The logic is flawed but, for those suffering from depression, it is the nagging static drowning out of all the other voices. Their sadness is a deafening white noise that makes merely existing painful.
And while it is true that bullying or belittling — whether it be from a spouse or peers — can exacerbate those feelings, they would still remain (even if to a lesser degree) should the bullying or belittling be removed from the equation.
No, we cannot blame Williams' wife for his death.
Not only do we not know the inner workings of their marriage, but we also simply cannot assign blame to a woman for a choice she did not make. We cannot assign blame to a woman for her husband's crippling depression. After all, he had been fighting to keep his head above water since long before they walked down the aisle.
Assigning blame to other people for someone's suicide diminishes the struggle. It lessens the urgency to explore major depression in the hopes that we might find a more viable solution for fighting it and other disorders like it.
So blaming Schneider is irresponsible. It's reprehensible. Williams was a great man — a beloved man — indeed, and he was also a deeply unhappy man who ultimately succumbed to his demons.
No one can shoulder the blame for that, except depression itself.