“Please, don’t worry so much because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky, when the stars are strung across the velvety night. When a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish. Think of me. Make your life spectacular, I know I did.” 

– Robin Williams’ graduation speech at the end of the 1996 film ‘Jack’

In light of the tragic loss of cinema and comedy legend, Mr Robin Williams, who passed away due to suicide by asphyxiation on Tuesday, August 11, 2014 following a long battle with depression, we thought it appropriate to address the seriousness of depression as a mental health

Robin Williams

Robin Williams


Statistics reveal an estimated one million Australians are living with depression. Depression will fall second only to heart disease as our nation’s leading medical cause of death and disability within 20 years. Alarmingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports death from suicide accounts for more fatalities than deaths due to traffic accidents.

Yet despite its severity, a cloud of misunderstanding continues to hang over depression.

Too often, the word depression is used as a metaphor or in humour – “I’m so depressed about the Sydney’s Swans losing!” – which to those living with the debilitating illness, can be hurtful and degrading.

Being clinically depressed does not mean you’re simply experiencing a difficult or stressful time. Although external factors can lead to depression, often there is no obvious cause. Rather, the serious mental illness issue can be due to chemical imbalances in the brain.

The Oxford Dictionary defines clinical depression as:

A mental condition characterised by feelings of severe despondency and dejection, typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep”

As the death of Robin Williams demonstrates, depression is a serious mental health illness. Despite what is often thought, people who are depressed simply cannot ‘wake up and get a grip’. It’s important to understand that, whether with psychological treatment or appropriate medication, depression can be treated with professional assistance.

Although only family and close friends truly knew Robin Williams, admirers of his talent as an actor and comedian may have been surprised to learn that such a rich, successful, creative and funny man could be unhappy. What his passing clearly illustrates is that depression can touch anyone.

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Every day, at least six Australians die from suicide, while another 30 attempt to take their own lives.

If you, or someone you know is experiencing depression-like symptoms, or are having suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

To support those living with mental health disorders today, please mark these calendar entries in your diary: