Oh Captain! My Captain!

Like millions of other people, the passing of Robin Williams yesterday broke my heart.

He was one of a kind, a masterful storyteller, a creative tour de force.

More than that and by all accounts, Mr. Williams was an amazing, kind and generous human being.

This has never happened to me before: to feel the passing of a celebrity, of someone I never met, so keenly. I usually feel sad, especially for their family and friends, but it doesn’t feel personal.

But with Mr. Williams, it’s closer to home. That’s testament to the talent he was. Most of the people who mourn him around the world didn’t know him personally, but he touched all of us. He was like a funny, light-filled uncle who always knew the right thing to say.

I’ve been watching Mr. Williams my entire life. He was in so many of my film favorites (and yours too, I’m sure). From family comedies like Mrs. Doubtfire, HookToys and Aladdin to his darker roles in Death to Smoochy, Insomnia and One Hour Photo to his touching roles in Good Will Hunting, The Birdcage and Dead Poets Society.

And so many more.

(Robin Williams’s speech as teacher John Keating in Society about poetry and Walt Whitman stands out as one of the most memorable, powerful and uplifting moments on film. So much so, that he re-enacted it for this recent Apple ad — one of his last productions.)

I was too young to have watched him in Mork and Mindy, but I was so happy to see him on the small screen — all too briefly — last year as a zany ad exec in The Crazy Ones.

And let’s not forget the laugh-till-you-cry-or-piss-your-pants brilliance of his stand-up.

I’m grateful to have been able to enjoy so much of Mr. Williams’s work. I wish there could have been so much more.

Mr. Williams’s suicide and battle with depression points to the need for us all to be more open and compassionate to people who have mental health issues. You never know what a person is going through and that’s why so much more sensitivity needs to be brought to the table.

These aren’t “demons” or just a matter of finding happiness. It’s so much more than that. Depression, like addiction and so many other disorders, are illnesses and need to be treated as such.

The stereotypes need to be broken down and thrown away, so that we can have a more productive public dialogue, and greater understanding of and for one another.

We all know someone who lives and struggles with these issues, and they shouldn’t have to feel ashamed, alone, unworthy and unlovable.

Show your support that #MentalHealthMatters by being kinder to the people around you, not judging them for whatever they may be going through, and letting them know that they can get the help they need — whenever they’re ready for it.

All of this is easier said than done, I know, but it’s a start.

For all the joy, all the laughs, all the boldness, all the heart, for feeling like family: RIP Robin Williams.


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