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Mental Health Taboos and Memories of Robin Williams

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We are greatly saddened by the passing of a truly great man – Robin Williams - because I was there when he got his start.

Some of our staff was in high school and they used to go to the Comedy Store in Westwood (West Los Angeles – before it moved to Sunset Blvd.) to watch the up-and-coming comedians.

In one show, David Letterman was the MC and well-known comedians like Steve Martin and Robin Williams got their start there. Steve Martin was a riot but Robin hit you like a hurricane! David Letterman introduced Robin as a Russian comedian and the audience learned to fasten their seatbelts and hold on whenever he took the stage because it was going to be a bumpy ride.

And this was how Robin entertained us, lived his life, and ultimately crashed and burned. This was a man that had passion – and lots of it. Passion for his art. Passion for people. Passion for the environment. His passion will sorely be missed.

What can one person say to his family?

To his fans?

To his friends?

I’m sorry just doesn’t even get close to the sadness we all are feeling.

First of all, may his passing not be in vain but a wake-up call that mental illness is a serious matter. We have grown so far technologically, but psychologically as a nation we show poor marks.

This is because our public knowledge of mental illness is so limited. By making mental health and substance abuse treatment a giant mystery, it has made everybody suffer. Here is yet another example of one of our heroes succumbing to a silent killer, but to Robin it must have been shouting.

Mental Health Taboos

Mental health treatment to the average person seems taboo.

If you struggle with addiction or a mood disorder, the judgments from others are harsh and relentless. People who battle with mental illness do so on two fronts: one within themselves and the other one with society. “Tough it up” or “get over it” are the normal responses they hear.

How can the average person get over addiction or a traumatic experience with a snap of a finger?

It is a process to get to the root of the problem, learn from it, embrace it, and ultimately heal. The reliance on psychiatric medication only handles the physical component. In order to effectively heal an issue for the last time, it must be worked on on 4 levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, and for the ultimate healing - at the spiritual (Authentic Self) level. We know how to do this now. We can combine psychology with spirituality that shows that problems and issues appear in our lives for spiritual reasons. As we work through deep-seated issues, we open up to more love and peace in our world which has a major impact on others.

Robin Williams' Struggles with Substance Addiction and Depression

Robin Williams was an admitted abuser of cocaine — which he also referred to as “Peruvian marching powder” and “the devil’s dandruff” — in the 1970s and ’80s, and addressed his drug habit in his comedy act. “What a wonderful drug,” he said in a sardonic routine from “Live at the Met.” “Anything that makes you paranoid and impotent, give me more of that.”

In 2006, he checked himself into the Hazelden rehab for alcohol treatment, having fallen off the wagon after some 20 years of sobriety.

Interestingly, he explained to ABC’s Diane Sawyer that this addiction had not been “caused by anything, it’s just there.” We see this all the time with those suffering from addiction, especially those that have not dealt with the underlying core issues that have led them to use.

“It waits,” said Robin. “It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m OK.’ Then, the next thing you know, it’s not OK. Then you realize, ‘Where am I? I didn’t realize I was in Cleveland.’ ”

Robin was also diagnosed with severe depression, according to his publicist. This is in line with our experience, where virtually all people suffering from addiction also have a co-occurring mental health issue (known as dual diagnosis). Both need to be addressed for true healing.

Sadness and Hopefulness

Robin, I always enjoyed your wit, and your passion to help out your fellow man/woman.

My prayer is that people focus on your life and learn from your death.

For those who struggle with their mental well-being, please seek help. Learn from the professionals on how to work through the difficulties in your life in order for you to not just cope, but to thrive. You're not alone and there is a path to wellness.


Credit: static.guim.co.uk

What I’ll always remember about Robin was how he played with the audience.

In those early days, I sat up front with my friend Michael who was a dark dark black man with a smile that lit up the room. We used to call him the black Danny Kay. When there was a lull, Robin used to walk up to Michael, raise a fist to the sky and say “Sow Brother.” Michael is still laughing about that and always will. That too, I will always treasure.

Robin you will be sorely missed.

About The Clearing

The Clearing is a residential treatment center located on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. We created The Clearing in response to the pervasiveness of treatment centers that focus more on luxury than modern, evidence-based therapy.

Our approach is based on healing the underlying core issues that cause addiction. If you'd like to learn more, contact us, or download our free eBook:

Download eBook:  Healing Underlying Core Issues

  Download eBook:  Healing Underlying Core Issues
Gregg Makuch

This post was written by Gregg Makuch

Gregg helps get the word out about The Clearing. When he’s not riding his bike and enjoying the beauty of the San Juan Islands, Gregg loves to cook and spend time with his family.

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