Tonight America learned that Robin Williams has died likely from suicide. He was an incredibly gifted actor and comic. I fondly remember being introduced to his zaniness with Mork & Mindy on television, laughed at his adult humor comedy routines while in college and grad school, and watched screen portrayals of various characters earning three Best Actor Oscar nominations and an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting.
His portrayal of Dr. Sean Maguire, the psychologist who helps Will Hunting, portrayed by Matt Damon, break through his defenses in the therapy office by establishing therapeutic alliance, trusting the clinician to challenge those inner most negative thoughts and feelings that drive depression, anxiety or addiction. The therapy leads Hunting’s character to confront painful memories of abuse and work past many of the character’s self-doubts, in spite of his genius.
The movies have not always been very kind with portrayal of therapists or psychiatrists. However, Good Will Hunting, and Williams broke the mold showing how compassion, realistic conversation, and even, self-disclosure can be beneficial to the client – therapist relationship. And thus, what a sad irony that Robin Williams has allegedly died due to complications from depression while having portrayed physicians and therapists whose clients often experienced “Hollywood endings” of happily ever after.
Addiction and depression are life threatening illnesses that require intervention. At times, someone may need a residential or inpatient setting when the complications become overwhelming. Many people continue successful outcomes in an outpatient setting with a trusted therapist and at times, in conjunction with a competent psychiatrist for medication management. Williams’ passing is a reminder that seeking help remains critical. As a therapy professional, I remain committed to assisting those who entrust me with their care. And my hope is that I can bring a slice of Sean Maguire to each person I work with. Rest in peace Robin Williams.