Robin Williams & the Black Bear

The last several days I have been listening to and reading people’s reactions to the death of Robin Williams. His suicide has touched an uncomfortable place in many.

In one interview Larry King, the well-known interviewer and good friend of Robin’s, said; “I wish I had known.” There was a sadness in his voice, a resignation to what had happened and a questioning; “could he have done more, did he miss something, why, how could Robin have done such a thing?”

Depression is often described as a black bear. It is enormous, threatening, a predator that overpowers its prey, wounding and capable of killing.

Mental illnesses can overwhelm, inflict great pain and in the case of Robin Williams, and many others, cause death. There are some who say; “Suicide is selfish, takes no account of loved ones, hurts family and friends.”

meet your new neighbor (by: Pat Gaines, creative commons)

When I was growing up my family loved to camp. We visited National Parks near the Appalachian Trail many times. On one trip we were hiking up a mountain trail and around an upcoming bend in the path came a black bear. We became still and tried to figure out what to do. We scrambled off the trail, up the side of the mountain, to allow the bear to pass. The bear instead started climbing up also. We made our way back down to the trail and so did the bear. After standing there a while one hiker took some food and threw it as far as he could hoping the bear would pursue it. It did and we quickly got out of the area.

We didn’t ask the bear to come around the bend, we tried to avoid and escape from  it. Imagine if the bear didn’t want the food, stayed on the path, wouldn’t let us pass, stalked us. What would we have done? What sacrifice, unthinkable act, might someone have made?

This is depression, this is mental illness. Unless you’re dealing with the bear, you can’t know what you’d do and certainly shouldn’t judge.




About is a place for sojourners walking this spiritual path called life. - Essentialist, contemplative, author, advocate, old soul

Posted on August 13, 2014, in Mindfulness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I like the image of the black bear as representing depression. Still, I don’t think any single image can capture the complexity of depression. Was Robin Williams merely the victim of a purely biological depression? Or was it also a matter of psychological processes, such as being so trapped in the role of the clown that he didn’t know how to get out? If he was so trapped, did he do it to himself or was he pushed there by the demands of the rest of us that he keep on that persona at all costs? Was his comic gift more of a curse? I don’t think we’ll ever know. And, while I think there are always better choices than suicide, it’s also true that some people get to a place where they can’t see any other way out. What a tragedy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Blessings and a wonderful comment to the post.

      Yes, it is a tragedy. Depression and other mental illnesses are still misunderstood and those who have not experienced them personally or through a loved one struggle with understanding.

      Hopefully Robin’s death will help of us seek to understand and help even when we’re pushed away by those who suffer.


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