1.00 O Clock in the morning, Bristol Airport, baggage reclaim area.
I had managed to join the slowest possible queue at Border Control, meaning I arrived to collect our cases sometime after they’d arrived and had already been removed from the carousel by son number one who showed, as ever, far more intelligence than his father.
The family gathered to drag our cases through a non existent Customs and Excise area when I glanced at a silent TV which was showing Sky News. And there, looking out at me, was Robin Williams.
A split second later and it was clear that his photo was there not for a good reason: he was dead.
Some brief internet research suggested he had taken his own life.
Now I think Williams was one of the great actors and comedians of my lifetime. From the brilliant Dead Poets Society through Good Morning Vietnam and then, outrageously, Mrs Doubtfire. And much more besides. A brilliant stand-up, a relentless storyteller, one of the funniest men on earth.
Williams suffered from depression. The Black Dog knows no bounds, shows no favours, respects neither wealth or influence. Black Dog serves no useful or meaningful purpose, but he takes lives, if he can, and destroys many others.
How can things be that bad that you take your own life?
Sadly, I knew people for whom things did indeed get that bad. They weren’t actors or stars, but that doesn’t matter. The lazy journalism to which we shall now surely be treated – ‘Tears of a clown’, that sort of thing – do not in any way reflect the reality. There are those who grace the stage and screen who are able to entertain and make us laugh, but away from the bright lights they suffer. But then, there are bus drivers, doctors, sportsmen and women who suffer the same way. But the lazy hack will not gain any kudos from ‘tears of a bin man.’
I find the death of Robin Williams, that most gifted of performers, literally depressing. Despite the off stage darkness of his own life, he showed us a light and enriched our own lives with his brilliance.
Mental health is regarded as somewhere below homeopathy in this country, regarded by many as something from which you should simply snap your fingers and get on with your life. Robin Williams, with his great wealth and privileged lifestyle, was not immune from the debilitating Black Dog that appears to have taken his life. He could probably afford all the rehab and treatment that money could buy but it didn’t save him.
It’s a wake up call to all of us, especially the politicians who control our lives and make the decisions upon which we live or die.
For many, there is literally nothing, apart from the world of anti-depressants and occasional counselling (depending on where you live), and generations of people have wasted lives because nothing is done for them.
Above everything, this is a terrible personal and family tragedy and our thoughts should be with the family and friends of Robin Williams whilst they grieve and try and make some sense from his premature passing.