When Robin Williams Talked About His Struggle With Depression, Addiction

by
Fatimah Mazhar
Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide in the U.S.

The video posted above is a clip from the 1997 Academy Award-nominated film “Good Will Hunting.”

The words uttered in this iconic scene resonate with devastated fans of actor and comedian Robin Williams. The star was found dead on Monday from an apparent suicide at his home in Northern California.

“…You presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine,” says Sean Maguire, played by Williams, to Will Hunting, portrayed by Matt Damon.

It's tough to fathom that a man who made people laugh all over the world, who always – always – appeared full of life onstage during his stand-up acts, and who was rarely caught without a smile on his face, took his own life.

Williams' publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said the universally beloved actor had been "battling severe depression of late." 

"This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."

His death has set off a much-needed conversation about the effects of depression. As David DiSalvo of Forbes noted in his article:

“Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide in the U.S., and suicide claims 34,000 lives in this country every year.”

The condition – in many cases – is worsened because of the patients lack of knowledge, acceptance and misconceptions about the illness.

Williams worked hard to cope with his condition. After struggling with alcoholism, just last month, he had checked himself into the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota in an effort to maintain his sobriety.

He spoke publicly about his battle with depression on several occasions.

Below is a list of interviews in which the Oscar-nominated actor discussed alcohol abuse and anxiety disorder.

"It escalated quickly"

“One day [when I relapsed] I walked into a store and saw a little bottle of Jack Daniel’s. And then that voice — I call it the ‘lower power’ — goes, ‘Hey. Just a taste. Just one.’ I drank it, and there was that brief moment of ‘Oh, I’m okay!’ But it escalated so quickly. Within a week I was buying so many bottles I sounded like a wind chime walking down the street.," he stated in 2013 to Parade.

“It's hard admitting it”

Williams told Diane Sawyer of ABC News just after his two-month treatment for alcoholism in 2006 that falling back into the addiction was gradual.

"It's [addiction] -- not caused by anything, it's just there," Williams said.

Williams' wife of 17 years, Marsha, and three children, Zelda, Cody and Zach, provided added incentive for him to seek help.

"It's hard admitting it, then once you've done that, it's real easy," Williams told Sawyer.

“I was shameful”

In 2010 he said, “You know, I was shameful, and you do stuff that causes disgust, and that's hard to recover from. You can say, 'I forgive you' and all that stuff, but it's not the same as recovering from it. It's not coming back."

“Drinking is like sleepwalking with activities”

“I’ve done the research on playing an alcoholic,” Williams said.

“Having sobriety now, (for) like seven years, they have these things when you’re drinking called ‘blackouts.’ It’s not really blackouts, it’s like sleepwalking with activities, but it’s the idea of, you know, ‘yeah, I’m more focuses on the present,’ and that helps, especially when you’re doing a series.”

“I was fooling people”

“I thought I was fooling people. But it’s the old thing of ‘they say vodka doesn’t smell.' No, not until you sweat. And you just lie and lie and you think ‘I can deal with this.. And then you finally go, ‘No you can’t.’ And then you give up,” he told Mirror in 2010.

“You’ve just got surrender”

Robin Williams spoke to Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Kerry O'Brien about his battle with addiction and his career in stand-up comedy.

"F*** Life"

In a 2010 interview with Marc Maron, Williams said:

"When I was drinking there was only one time, where even for a moment, I thought: ‘Fuck life.’ But then even my conscience brain went, did you really just say fuck life? You know you have a pretty good life as it is right now.  Have you noticed the two houses? Yes. Have you noticed the girlfriend?  Yes. Have you noticed that things are pretty good, even though you may not be working right now? Yes. OK, let’s put the suicide over here on discussable, let’s leave that over here in the discussion area, we’ll talk about that. First of all you don’t have the balls to do it. I’m not going to say it out loud."

 

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