A collective sigh echoed through the newsroom Aug. 11 shortly after 7 p.m.
"Robin Williams is dead?" I said to no one in particular.
"Robin Williams was found dead," someone else said.
That led to a few moments of stunned silence, followed by a flurry of clacking keys as the 16 or so people left in the West Main Street offices of Record Publishing verified, then posted the news of Robin Williams' death.
At first I was hoping for a hoax.
To me, Robin Williams was one of the three funniest men alive, in the same company with Don Rickles and Bill Cosby.
I remember seeing Robin Williams on the old Laverne & Shirley show, which morphed into an appearance on Happy Days, then his own sitcom, Mork and Mindy. I not only liked Robin Williams, I followed his appearance on the late night talk show circuit, his movies and his well publicized bouts with substance abuse and depression. His quick wit and often rambling comedic style always made me laugh. His improvisational stylings would change by the second, often leading to flailing arms and an exaggerated two-step.
Not only did Robin Williams love to make America laugh, he loved to make our men and women serving in combat zones laugh. Robin Williams was a member of the United Service Organization and made several trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit our troops.
I loved his show last season, The Crazy Ones, and thought maybe Robin Williams was finally able to turn the corner on his past problems.
It appears he could not.
As I write this, officials are classifying the death as a suicide. I'm not going to speculate on that. That's not the reason I'm writing.
I want to remind people that depression is real and it can be a silent killer.
I'm not sure why Robin Williams was not able to work through his demons. I have no idea why he took his own life.
But I am sure that his wife, children and family are going through an unspeakable horror at losing their loved one, possibly by his own hand.
There is nothing we can do for Robin Williams now except mourn and pray for those he left behind.
However, there is something we can do in his memory, to honor the legacy of happiness he left us all.
If you know someone who is having a bad day, give them a smile, ask if they need to talk. Try to educate yourself and be aware of the symptoms of depression.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are several signs of depression which could be evident. Those include: a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day; loss of interest in or enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable; changes in appetite that lead to weight loss or gain; either sleeping too little or too much; feeling restless or slowed down; loss of energy; feeling worthless or inappropriately guilty; difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions and having
thoughts of death or suicide or attempting suicide.
Depression can also manifest itself through a variety of physical signs which may include fatigue/exhaustion, headache and/or achy body, stomach ache or digestive problems and problems with sexual function.
"Depression that has these characteristics is a medical condition called major depressive disorder, one of a number of depressive illnesses," according to the Cleveland Clinic. "More than 10 million Americans suffer from major depressive disorder each year, but most never get treatment. When left untreated, depression can become worse, last for years, and cause untold suffering."
If you see any of these signs or symptoms in a friend or family member, please, for their sake, ask them if they are OK. Try to get them to seek help. If you
recognize them in yourself, please check with your doctor and see what can be done.
One of my favorite Robin Williams' movies is the 1987 "Good Morning Vietnam." He plays the part of an air force disc jockey in Vietnam assigned to US Armed Forces Radio, who bucks the system while fighting to give troops in the field rock n' roll, uncensored news and a sense that someone cares for them.
During the movie, Williams' character, Adrian Cronauer, plays "It's a Wonderful World," by Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, while a montage of scenes are shown. It's one of my favorite snippets from the movie. The scene has been played over and over in my head since I heard the news of Robin Williams death.
I wish he could have gotten more help.
And while it's too late for Robin Williams, we can try to turn this
tragedy into a positive by understanding depression and sadness hits everyone, with varying degrees during tough times.
I often feel it myself.
Let's try to recognize the symptoms and help those we love get the help needed and show them the wonderful in the world far outweighs the dark.
Let's honor Robin Williams' life by helping others.
No family member should feel the sting of a senseless death.
For a list of local service providers visit the County of Summit ADM Board at www.admboard.org.
Contact the ADM hotline 24 hours a day at 330-434-9144 or 800-273-8255 for adult mental health issues.
For children mental health emergencies call 330-543-7472 or 1-866-443-7472.