Recent Thoughts on Mission and Robin Williams’ Passing

For nearly 6 months, I have dedicated this walk to Mental Health. The foundation of its mission is to spread awareness surrounding the reality of Mental Illness, a reality that is often overlooked, hidden in the shadows, polluted by stigma, or suffered with in silence. All of these points that shroud mental illness connect one way or another, but a solitary key to lifting the veil and shining a light on fact comes with the ability to invoke awareness. Awareness can be spread through discussion, but discussion can only be initiated by people who wish to talk about the matter. By doing this walk across America it has been my goal is to initiate this discussion by giving the people of our country the story of my brother Ryan who took his life this past November. It has been my hope throughout this entire trek that the story of his life and struggle with mental illness would give others, who may suffer or have lost, something to relate with. By giving others something to possibly relate with and even using Ryan’s story to help educate as well, it is also in my hopes that this result will create a ripple effect. When we give others a true story to connect with (a reality per say), we demonstrate an ability to reassure these individuals that they are not alone. As the result of sharing Ryan’s story, may it be in the best interest of those who suffer in silence to come forward without fear of being misunderstood or alone in their own associations with mental illness. When we bring others forward with a story to, in turn, share their own, we continue to spread awareness with each story shared thereafter, thus, creating the ripples from the first. On the subject of Stigma, it is my belief, and I hope many of yours as well, that it can be battled when we share our stories aloud so that others may do the same. Stories bring a light and a face to what mental illness is, does, and who it can affect. To start, when we each share our own stories we immediately take one object of Stigma and dispose of it: The belief that Mental Illness is selective towards only specific personalities, lifestyles, or life choices can be eliminated when those from all walks of life relay their own stories. When shared, we can see with relative ease that those who suffer from Mental Illness come from all walks of life-Rich, Poor, Black, White, Male or Female etc. Everyone and anyone can be afflicted; however, everyone and anyone can also be a hand in eliminating this very misconception that Mental Illness solely affects specific minds.
With all this being said, let the recent death of Robin Williams, be a testament, though a sad and tragic one. Let his life, legacy, and ongoing struggle shine a ray of light on the misconstrued piece Stigma that surrounds those who suffer with any form of Mental Illness. A life seemingly upbeat filled with smiles and jollity that brought these very aspects to his audience was superficial to what was held within. What we see in people on the outside does not always reflect the current status of the mind within. An individual struggling with a mental illness can not simply “get over it” at their own convenience. If it were a choice then one would think that the presence of fame and fortune would make one “choose” to not have thoughts of suicide or be depressed. If mental illness and depression were simply based on lifestyle, fame, or fortune then we would not have lost this wonderful man. RIP Robin Williams.