Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Psychological Analysis of Robin Williams

Robin Williams was truly one of the greatest comics of his or any generation. We were first introduced to Robin as a lovable alien on Mork and Mindy, and it didn’t take long before the whole country was captivated by his manic energy. Eventually, we learned that Robin was much more than just a comedic actor, as his roles in Dead Poet’s Society and Good Will Hunting would demonstrate he had real talent as a serious actor. When Robin took his own life on August 11th, 2014, the whole world was, therefore, shocked and saddened by the loss.

Robin Williams was born July 21st, 1951 in Chicago Illinois. His father Robert was a wealthy auto executive, who was 46 when his son was born. His mother was a former model who Robin jokingly referred to as a “Christina Dior Scientist” when describing her later. He had two older half-brothers, but Robin was essentially raised as an only child. The family was wealthy, and Robin spent a great deal of time with the nanny in his early formative years. 

Robin described intense feelings of loneliness growing up, and how he used to sit around his room making up characters and stories to amuse himself. He also liked to amuse his mother, and would try his early “routines” on her in an attempt to hear her laughter. He later discussed this desire to make his mother laugh as one of the pillars of his early interest in comedy. 

Robin was a shy, overweight kid growing up, and he spent his time playing with a room fully of toys, mostly on his own. Classmates remembered him as serious and introverted during these years, and also how he had a hard time adjusting as the new kid in classroom. 

When Robin was 12, the family moved to Detroit. They moved into a giant 32 room mansion which had huge gardens and acres of space to roam. It was an isolating place for such a lonely child, and Robin reported, “My only companions, my only friends as a child, were my imagination.”

Robin gained some confidence as he advanced into his school years, and he became the president of his class while also playing soccer and wrestling on the school’s team. Despite these positive changes, he also described how he was bullied by the other kids at the all-boys school he attended. He was also beginning to cultivate an understanding that making people laugh was a way of avoiding this bullying, and his sense of humor continued to evolve. 

During his junior year, his father retired from the auto industry and decided to move the family to the bay area in California. It was a huge change from the stuffy prep school atmosphere of Detroit, and Robin began to loosen up in both his personality as well as his appearance. His theater and comedy skills began to flourish in the laid-back California atmosphere. 

Robin began involved with The Committee, which was a well-respected improvisational group that came out of the Second-City tradition. He began to develop a talent for mimicry and imitation, and began to experiment with doing different voices. His comedy skills were continuing to grow. 

Robin attended two different community colleges following his graduation from High School, and spent three years studying theater and drama. People were beginning to notice his exceptional talent, and Robin would often improvise in various theater productions. He worked as a waiter in Sausalito to earn extra money, and specialized in entertaining the diners he served with various comedy routines. 

It was also during this era that Robin began to perform live comedy for the first time. One of his first gigs was at the Holy City Zoo in San Francisco, and he also performed at The Spaghetti Factory and The Boarding House, which were places for budding comics to develop their chops. He began to perfect his manic style of comedy during these years, and soon he had built a small following in the Bay area. 

In 1973, Robin received his first big break when he was awarded a full scholarship to The Julliard School in New York, which was one of the most prestigious acting programs in the world. The legendary John Houseman awarded him one of two places in the school’s advanced program. The other student chose for this award was Christopher Reeve, who would be one of Robin’s closest friends right up until Reeve’s tragic death in 2004.

There are many different versions as to what transpired during Robin’s time at The Julliard, but it was clear that many people associated with the school recognized him as a genius. One thing that everyone does agree on, is Robin never graduated from the institution, and reports vary as to what exactly happened. There appears to be some agreement from all of the various accounts that Robin’s manic performance style was at odds with the more traditional values emphasized by the institution. The school certainly emphasized the connection when Robin’s career went stratospheric. 

Here is the school’s official statement following Robin’s death. 

“The Julliard community is deeply saddened by the death of our distinguished alumnus Robin Williams. Robin’s genius for comedic improvisation, which quickly surfaced in his studies at Julliard, was matched by his deep understanding of the actor’s art and how to touch his audience in meaningful ways. He was a generous supporter of the school’s drama students through the Robin William’s Scholarship, which supported the tuition cost of a drama student each year. As an artist, he brought together a unique mix of traditional actor training with a creative spirit that set new standards for performance in cinema, television and live theater. His caring ways and effervescent personality will be missed by all who were touched by this special person."
Joseph W. Polosi
President of the Julliard School

Whatever happened, there appeared to be no hard feelings between Robin and the powers that be at the school. He did provide a full scholarship for Jessica Chastain to attend the school, which demonstrated he still had an appreciation for the education they provided. 

Here are Jessica’s own words on the subject.

“Robin Williams changed my life. He was a great actor and a generous person. Through a scholarship, he made it possible for me to graduate college. His generous spirit will forever inspire me to support others as he supported me. He will forever be missed.”

Following his time at Julliard, Robin decided he was going to return to the stage. This decision was born out of necessity as much as it was ambition, as the stage was where he was the most comfortable. Rather than return to San Francisco where he had originally made his name, Robin decided he would now take on Los Angeles. 

This was also the era where Robin’s drug use began to escalate. The late nights in the roaring 70’s included a great deal of alcohol and cocaine, and Robin was in the center of it all. Like many people who abuse cocaine, Robin also needed to come down, and thus began the cycle of going up and coming down with the help of drugs and alcohol. Robin’s drug use was also very much in keeping with the spirit of the time and place he came of age as a performer. 

Robin met Valerie Velardi when they were both young and aspiring actors. They quickly fell in love and moved in together after only a month as a couple. Shortly afterward, Robin was “discovered” by a television producer named George Schlatter, who was working on a remake of the legendary comedy show Laugh-In rebranded for a more current audience. Robin stole the show in his first appearance, and important people were beginning to take some notice. 1978 was a good year for Robin, as more television appearances followed and he and Valerie got married in June of that same year. 

Robin was attending Penny Marshall’s acting classes at the time, and she recommended him for a part in her brother Gary’s hit show Happy Days. On a recommendation for his seven-year-old son, Gary Marshall decided Happy Days needed an alien to spice things up. Robin Williams was to become that alien, and the seminal character “Mork” was born. 

Mork and Mindy became a huge hit, and phrases such as “Shazbot” and “Nanu Nanu”, became part of the American vernacular. The powers that be at ABC began to experiment with the highly successful show, and changing time slots, casting changes, and strange plotlines all began to affect the show’s popularity. The show moved from number 3 in the ratings to number 27 in just one season. 

The show continued to sink in the ratings in seasons three and four, and was not popular at all when it fell to number 60 in the ratings in its final season. When it was canceled in 1982, not many people were surprised. Rarely had a show had such a meteoric rise and dramatic fall. 

Robin began to doubt his comedic skills following the show’s failure. His first feature film Popeye was also a commercial and critical disappointment, and suddenly Robin’s rising career had stalled. His drug use was also escalating, and infidelity was increasingly becoming an issue in his marriage. 

Robin’s next movie was The World According to Garp, which was based on the successful but controversial novel by John Irving. Critics applauded Robin’s performance and he was now being taken more seriously as a conventional actor. Robin continued to engage in the excesses of the Hollywood lifestyle in his spare time. 

On March 5th, 1982, something happened that changed Robin’s life forever. Earlier that evening, Robin had been out clubbing and later visited his friend John Belushi at the famous Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip. They did cocaine together, and Robin left when he met Robin’s companion Cathy Smith who he did not approve of. He left Belushi in a cocaine and heroin-induced stupor, and said: “If you ever get up again, call me.” Belushi would die of an overdose later that night. 

This was a major turning point for Robin. Like Belushi, Robin’s success was both sudden and then stratospheric, and they both embraced the excess of their newfound fame with gusto. Robin learned his wife Valerie was pregnant with their first child around this same time. He was not at a serious crossroads. 

Ultimately Robin decided it was time to grow up and leave the drugs behind. He realized that having a child meant embracing responsibility and being present as a father, and he quit drugs without any professional intervention. He would remain clean for the next couple of decades. 

Although Robin had given up drugs, his other vices would soon come back to haunt him. A waitress at a club Robin performed at in LA sued Robin for giving her Herpes, which was a very public shaming that put a large strain on Robin’s marriage. Robin eventually settled the case out of court, but the damage to his reputation and marriage was done. Robin and Valerie divorced two years later. 

Robin was in need of a break in his life, and it came in the way of his seminal hit Good Morning Vietnam. For the first time in his career, Robin found a movie that allowed him to truly use his improvisational skills. The movie was a massive hit around the world. 

Robin was not free from scandal though, as he began a relationship with his son Zak’s nanny with a Filipino woman named Marsha Garces. The press got wind of the affair and were merciless in their mockery of Williams and his affair with the nanny. Despite this criticism, Robin and Marsha fell deeply in love, and were married in 1989. She was heavily involved in his career in the 20 years they remained married. They would have two children named Zelda and Cody. 

Robin made a number of bad films in his life, and also had trouble with his work on the stage. An example of this came in his 1988 production of Waiting for Godot with Steve Martin. The critics hated the play and especially hated Robin. Needing a hit, Robin’s career would then take an important turn, and his next big movie Dead Poet’s Society would return Robin to prominence. 

Dead Poets was the kind of movie that defined a generation. Robin’s turn as the passionate teacher John Keating earned him an Oscar nomination, and Robin was once again on top. An interesting pattern was emerging in his career, as people were becoming more and more drawn to his vulnerability as a serious actor than the manic characters he played at the beginning of his career. 

Next came another serious role in the movie Awakenings, which gave him another chance to play a quiet and reserved character. Many friends of Williams described how this was actually closer to his real personality, and how his manic and frenzied presentation was something he only used on the stage. In any case, the movie was well received by critics, and Robin thoroughly enjoyed the chance to work with the legendary neuroscientist Oliver Sacks on whom his character was based. 

Robin next did the voice of Aladdin, which was a hugely successful movie that people immediately associated with Robin's manic style. Robin was never comfortable with the marketing of the movie, and was embroiled in a lengthy dispute with Disney over the use of his name and voice in the film’s promotion. Disney tried to smooth the situation over by gifting Robin a painting worth a million dollars, but the damage had already been done. 

Next came one of Robin’s biggest hits in the form of Mrs. Doubtfire. The movie once again gave Robin a chance to use his improvisational skills, and the film was a massive commercial success. The movie's themes of divorce and co-parenting were very personal to Robin, and he also was able to draw on these experiences to bring a vulnerability and understanding to the character. 

In 1997, Robin turned in what was perhaps the performance of a lifetime when he played the troubled psychologist Sean Maguire in the movie Good Will Hunting. It was a performance that allowed him to summon all of his powers as a serious actor, and he created a character that was to become a true classic still referenced by psychologists in classrooms around the world. The performance would earn him his first Oscar. 

After the success of the movie, Robin’s life and work slowly began to change. He made a series of movies that were not well received in the latter part of his career, and he took it very personally when critics panned him in Patch Adams and other movies during that era. Robin also has some personal tragedies, as his friend Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a riding accident, and he lost his beloved mother in 2001. Tougher times were on their way.

In 2004, Robin’s 20-year marriage began to suffer, in part because he relapsed and began drinking again. Along with this drinking, he became verbally abusive to his wife and his depression also returned. The death of Christopher Reeve in October of that year was a tremendous loss that sent him even further into a downward spiral. 

Robins’s career also continued to decline. He made ten movies between 2004 and 2006 that were all poorly received. His drinking continued to get worse and lasted for a period of nearly three years. He finally realized he had hit bottom later in 2006, and checked himself into a rehabilitation facility in Oregon to get professional help for his alcoholism. 

In 2008, Marsha finally filed for divorce, which cost Robin $30 Million dollars from his fortune. It was the beginning of some intense worries about money that would plague Robin for the rest of his life. Real or imagined, Robin believed he was having serious money problems during the last years of his life. 

Robin met another woman named Susan Schneider and they married in 2011 and moved into Robin’s mother’s home in Marin County. Robin continued to ruminate about money, and spoke often about he couldn’t afford his former lavish lifestyle. He decided to return to television to star in a show called The Crazy Ones, in part to alleviate the financial pressures he felt. The show was not well received. 

On August 11th, 2014, Robin Williams, who was 63 at the time, hung himself in the bedroom of his Marin County home. He took a belt, went into his stepson’s room, wedged the belt behind the door, and hung himself from there. He was in a seated position and there were also cuts on his wrists indicating other elements of self-harm. When his assistant found him at 11:45, his body was already cold.

The news sent shockwaves around the globe. People immediately wondered if his addictions and/or depression had finally beaten him. It was also known he had been diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s disease. Speculation was rampant as to what happened and why.

In the weeks and months to come, it was revealed that Robin also suffered from a disease known as Lewy-Body dementia. The symptoms of this disease include depression, anxiety, a lack of focus and concentration, as well as an inability to remember familiar people, places, and things. In short, Robin Williams was losing his mind, and a part of him was painfully aware of this. 

This information did not come to light for some time. His agent was on record as saying he had been battling severe depression in recent years. He had been to rehabilitation facilities for his drinking on more than one occasion in recent years. When his wife gave an interview about his Lewy-Body dementia nearly a year after he died, she made it clear she believed that it was this disease that was responsible for his suicide. 

In exploring this question, it seems important to explore how this disease affected his personality, but also the complex personality forces that existed long before this disease affected his personal choices. Robin Williams had suffered from depression for decades and his recent relapses with alcohol also indicated some further distress. People are still interested to know why one of the world’s most well-known and successful comedians would choose to end his own life in such a gruesome manner. 

Gender Role Preparation perceived through Gender Guiding Lines and Role Models

In exploring the personality forces that shaped Robin Williams, it is useful to go back to the beginning. Robin was a lonely, overweight child who was raised in a setting that included a great deal of loneliness and isolation. His father was a very successful man who was an executive in the auto industry. He was a hard worker and instilled in his young son some of this same work ethic. The fact that Robin would make over 60 movies in his career speaks to Robin’s respect for his father’s early modeling and lessons about working hard. 

Although Robin loved and respected his father, his mother was certainly the most important influence on the man he would one day become. In a number of interviews over the years, Robin discussed how the interplay between him and his mother was how he came to appreciate making people laugh. His mother placed a high value on humor and laughter, and Robin learned that if he could make his mother laugh, he could also win her approval and admiration. 

It seems quite simple to suggest that Robin’s desire to please his mother was at the root of all of his comedic genius, but this was an attribution he himself would often make when he was asked about the origins of his comedy. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, he referenced the life of Lenny Bruce in comparison to his own, and how they both developed their comedic skills and habits in response to being raised by mothers who liked to laugh. 

Interpersonal Style perceived through Experience of Family Atmosphere

In exploring Robin’s early life, it’s important to understand the isolation of his early years, and what it must have been like for him growing up in his 40-room Detroit home when his mother and father were rarely around. He discussed how he would often spend time on his own with his large group of toys, and he created characters and stories to entertain himself due to the lack of company in the home and in his life.

Being raised in relative affluence, Robin was also exposed to the finer things in life, often at the expense of family time and more personal communication with his parents. Robin’s father would choose to work long hours at his job as an executive, and Robin himself would often go “back” to work as a stand-up comedian after a long day of shooting his TV shows and movies. 

There was also a lot of laughter between Robin and his mother in the home when they did get to spend time together and Robin learned to cherish this time. Perhaps the fact that this time was often limited instilled a sense of urgency in Robin when it came to making his mother laugh. This sense of urgency with regard to making people laugh was apparent throughout Robin’s life, as he could rarely sit still through an entire interview without launching into non-sequiturs and his “shtick.” When Robin was on-stage you almost always got the full, manic Robin. This pattern may be directly related to his early interactions with his mother. 

Personal Code of Conduct perceived through Acceptance/ Rejection of Family Values

The loneliness and isolation of Robin’s early life were not something he wanted for his own children. When Robin was first successful in Hollywood, he fully embraced the lifestyle and was driven towards success while also fully engaging in the hedonism of that life including excessive drinking and drugs. This was certainly not the conservative world he grew up in, but there was an inherent selfishness to it that Robin was well aware of.  

Robin gave all that up when his son Zac was born, and he was able to stay clean for decades as he shifted his focus to being a parent and spending time with his wife and son. Robin talked often about the importance of time with his family but also suffered from a lot of guilt when his first two marriages dissolved. His sex scandal with Michelle-Tish Carter (where she alleged he gave her Herpes) was hugely embarrassing to Robin as well as his wife and son, and his actions were far from embracing the “traditional values” he was raised within his own nuclear family. 

Robin’s second marriage to his son’s former nanny was also a large public scandal that the press made a great deal of sport of, and Robin was always quick to defined his new wife when accusations were launched against her. Robin discussed how he drew on his own guilt as a divorced father in his role in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, and there are a number of moments of vulnerability in that movie that went beyond far beyond Robin’s traditional comic mentality. 

Despite his own ongoing challenges with fidelity in his marriages, Robin always placed a great deal of value on spending time with his children, as he did not want to repeat that patterns he himself grew up with. His daughter Zelda’s heartwarming tribute to him following his death spoke to his commitment to his children and this was one family value he worked hard to reverse in his own life with his family. 

Perspective on the World perceived through Experience of Psychological Birth Order 

Although Robin had two older half-brothers, psychologically he was clearly an only child. Only children often mature faster than children raised in large families, and this is fascinating to consider in the life of Robin Williams. He was a grown-up and mature child in his early years, and was quiet and serious in many social situations.

Personality is largely shaped in these early years and it is, therefore, useful to consider the roots of Robin’s true personality. Whoopi Goldberg, who worked closely with Robin on all of the Comic Relief specials described him as quiet and shy, and how the character he was most like was the shy and socially awkward Dr. Malcom Sayer in the movie Awakenings.

How in the world do we make sense of this given Robin’s manic public persona? In looking through a number of interviews with his friends and family over the years, it was often mentioned that Robin was much quieter and serious in his personal interactions with the people he trusted most. So which was the real Robin?

In attempting to answer this question, it is interesting to examine his interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton in 2001. This show gives actors a chance to examine their lives, choices, and careers in a way that sheds more insight into what exactly makes them tick as an actor. Robin repeatedly launched into his manic routines during this interview, and would often deflect serious questions with extended comic routines. 

It therefore seems likely that Robin used his comedy to avoid serious discussion and questions. He rarely gave a serious interview, and seemed to launch into his routines as a way of meeting the expectations of his fans and people’s perception of him. The fact that those that knew him best repeatedly spoke about his more serious side indicates this may have been closer to his “core” personality seems likely. 

On a personal note, I always found his serious performances in pieces such as Good Will Hunting and Awakenings much more interesting than his comedic roles. They indicated a depth and a hard-earned sense of wisdom that weren’t always apparent in his other films. One does not play roles like that so exquisitely without possessing a great deal of inner complexity and personal gravitas. It simply doesn't work when the wrong actors try. 

Openings for advancement perceived through environmental opportunities

It is impossible to understand Robin Williams without also evaluating and understanding the social context he came of age in. Although he originally came from a stuffy and conservative world of prep schools and affluence in Detroit, the family moved to the Bay Area when Robin was 16. Robin began responding to the world around him much differently following the family’s move to this much more liberal world.

Robin himself reported these were the first years he ever began to see himself as “funny.” He reported that the school system in California was much looser than he was previously used to, and how this freedom in his environment also allowed him to explore his personal freedoms as a comic and an actor. This formerly serious child went on to be voted ‘funniest” by his  classmates when he did finally graduate from High School.

Robin also began performing stand-up comedy in San Francisco, when social mores were changing and comedy was booming as a response to these changes. Robin was able to explore themes such as sex, drugs, and politics in in his early comic work, as his early career coincided with the Civil Rights and Women’s movements, as well as a kind of counterculture that Robin’s recklessness seemed to appeal to. 

Robin’s abuse of drugs and alcohol was also in keeping with the norms of the entertainment business in the 70’s and 80’s. Cocaine was becoming especially popular during this era, and Robin’s embrace of the drug led to problems with dependency and addiction. Perhaps because these drugs were so widely accepted, those that truly had addictions were not truly recognized for the serious problems they had. When Robin did cocaine with John Belushi several hours before he died, it was a wake-up call for him that forced him to examine some of his own demons and personal addictions.

In thinking about Robin and his addictions, it is important to consider the possibility that Robin had an addictive personality. Robin’s early problems were cocaine were well documented, but he was able to beat this addiction for a very long time following the birth of his son. With alcohol, he was able to stay clean for decades, but it was something he returned to in his later life as a response to boredom and frustration. His sexual indiscretions and marriages appeared to indicate a high need for novelty and stimulation with regard to women and sexuality. Even comedy itself was a kind of addiction for Robin, as he would often perform late at night as a way of working out personal stressors and demons. 

Robin also had a number of “positive” addictions in his life, including cycling and video games, which both took up a great deal of his time during his periods of sobriety. William Glasser’s seminal book Positive Addictions discusses how people with addictive personalities might replace formerly destructive habits with healthier choices, and Robin’s choices seemed consistent with this idea. 

Range of Social Interest perceived through Other Particularities

One important measure of a person’s mental health is their interest and involvement in the lives of their fellow human beings. Using this measure, it is clear that Robin Williams was a generous, compassionate and caring person. The man gave a lot throughout his life, often without much personal fanfare. 

There are a number of different examples of Robin’s generosity. In 1986 he joined forces with Bob Zmuda, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg to perform in Comic Relief, which would eventually raise 80 million dollars to help the homeless around the world. Given Robin came from relative affluence, he was always sensitive to the plight of those less fortunate than him. 

Robin also had a tremendous commitment to honoring soldiers and other men and women in uniform. Robin was an active member of the USO, which entertains troops around the world, and he performed for approximately 100,000 service people in 13 countries as a demonstration of his commitment to this cause. 

Robin also was heavily involved with St. Jude’s Children’s research hospital for many years. Much like his character “Patch Adams”, he spent time visiting sick children and donating money to their care and treatment. Robin had a tremendous interest in the care and welfare of vulnerable children.

Robin also had a great deal of time for his fans throughout his career, which was not always the case with A-list celebrities of his caliber. The thousands of fans who had personal encounters with him almost always described him as warm and unpretentious, and he seemed to have a genuine social interest in leaving his fans with some kind of memory. His statement that  “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that,” therefore seems prophetic. Robin seemed to have a true compassion for the suffering of others. 


“A man goes to a doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. The Doctor says, Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up. The man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor...I am Pagliacci.”

When Robin Williams died, tributes rolled in from all over the world. Many of them simply discussed how much his work meant to them. Others lamented the enormity of the loss. But it was this one from his friend and fellow comic Patton Oswalt that I was personally most drawn to. 

"But doctor, I AM Pagliacci." That's the only way this makes sense. Can't stand thinking of him being that sad. #RIPRobinWilliams

This is an interesting tribute coming from a friend and fellow comic. Although Robin’s wife would later provide further medical clarification as to the challenges Robin faced, it is also important to consider his nearly lifelong battles with depression. Robin’s manic and frenzied defenses, his lifelong struggles with addictions, and his own reflections on mental health, all indicate a more complex world that may initially meets the eye.

In examining the complexity of this inner world, it is important to start with Robin’s lonely and isolated childhood. What are the lifetime effects of such loneliness on a person’s psyche, and how might they influence a person’s future relationships and attachments? Although Robin had an intense love affair with the world, perhaps only a handful of people ever really knew the real Robin.

It is also interesting to consider the idea of the “manic defense” as it relates to Robin and his approach to the world. Although his mania made him rich and famous, it may have also distanced people from getting to know that sad and lonely child behind the mask. Robin was wonderful in movies where he was able to slow it all down, and perhaps there was a connection between his work on the screen and his own personal relationships.

Considering Robin’s mania and his long history, many people have speculated if it was possible he suffered from Bipolar disorder. At first glance, this certainly seems like a possibility as his mood swings could be rather intense. Bipolar disorder is a much different condition than a depressive disorder, and it is perhaps worth exploring the likelihood he suffered from this condition. 

The hallmark of this disorder is demonstrated by mood swings ranging from extreme highs that might include days without sleep, heavy drug and alcohol use, and hypersexuality, followed by serious depressive episodes. Robin’s behavior certainly met these criteria at various times throughout his life. 

Robin’s friend Carrie Fisher recounted a conversation with Robin where he revealed to her he did not suffer from this condition, which was something she found hard to believe given his manic behavior and episodes of depression she observed over the decades they had known each other. It’s important to note that there does not appear to be any formal diagnosis of Robin suffering from this disorder, although his behavior and presentation seem to line up with the components of this condition rather accurately. 

It is, therefore, difficult to understand Robin’s suicide as being about any one thing. Although the onset of dementia must have been terrifying for Robin as he felt his mind slipping away from him, suicide is still extremely rare in these cases. On average, people live approximately eight years following the additional diagnosis of this disease. Perhaps the thought of this disease slowly taking away the rest of his mind and body was too terrifying a thought for Robin to continue to live with.

Regardless of his ending, Robin Williams was a gift to the world that will continue to shine long after he is gone. For many families that have come of age in the last 30 years, his movies are part of their cannon and traditions. On a personal note, his work in Good Will Hunting was the single best depiction of a psychologist I’ve ever wintessed on the screen, and something I’ve used in my work as a professor to demonstrate the importance of trust and empathy. 

Lao Tzu once wrote, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” Although Robin was only on this earth for 63 years, his flame burned very brightly in these years we did get to watch him. The man gave a great deal of himself during this journey, and he will certainly go down as one of the legends of comedy as well as the larger screen.