Did Robin Williams have Bipolar?

Robin Williams is admired for his acting as well as his ability to be candid about addiction, depression and personal struggles. Over his lifetime, he was an inspiration to many. Shortly after taking his life, speculation began re: whether Robin Williams had bi-polar disorder or not.

Psychcentral gave the following statement:

Robin Williams has long been a sufferer of bipolar disorder, a mental illness where the person fluctuates between episodes of extreme energy, focus and productivity (mania) and severe depression. Apparently, he was in one of the episodes of depression when he took his own life.

In contrast to the statement given by Psychcentral, there are others who state that Robin Williams did not have bipolar. Apparently, even Robin Williams himself.The following is from an interview with Carrie Fisher on Robin Williams by the Hollywood Reporter.

In an interview with Carrie Fisher, the following was shared about her encounter with Robin Williams: “He … looked lost, kind of, and he said that he didn’t think he was bipolar. He took the test that I gave the audience and got all the answers right, but didn’t think [being bipolar] was something that had anything to do with him,” recalled Fisher, who has been candid about her own struggles with mental illness and addiction.  (more here)

Regardless of whether Robin Williams had bipolar or not, he was outspoken about his struggles with addiction and depression. And the following reality still remains: for as far as we have come in recent years regarding mental health  and addiction treatments and anti-stigma initiatives, we still have a ways to go.

Robin Williams: I am so very sorry for your suffering. Your passing has broken the hearts of many. Bangarang, Peter!

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Stepping out of my comfort zone to volunteer

For a while now, it has been on my life bucket list to be a special friend to a child in care (this idea was birthed after realizing that adoption is not the only way to help kids from hard places). With this desire, I contacted my local Children’s Services and went to a volunteer orientation. From there, I jumped through hoops (police check, letter from doctor, references, etc) to be involved in the “special friend” program. This is similar to Big Sister/Big Brother. In April of this year, I was matched with a…boy! The ironic thing is that I signed up to be a mentor to a girl in care and in the end, I ended up picking the only boy seeking a special friend. Besides he being a he…this boy seemed like the best fit. (Now let me explain. I love boys! I really do. They rock. I’m the oldest of 4 girls. As a result, I tend to connect with girls super fast and we end up being BFF’s. I was nervous re: how to build that connection with a boy. Plus I’m not into video games, never been good at sports, etc).

This volunteer opportunity has been pushing me out of my comfort zone and I’m feeling so blessed as a result. The following are reflections of this experience so far:

1. As edgy as I felt for the first “date” with the little man, I’m glad that I pushed through those nerves. He’s a great kid! And for being someone who isn’t gifted athletically, I loved our last get together where we played catch and soccer. Lots of fun.

2. Because Children’s Services has been involved with supporting the family, I assumed that I wouldn’t like mom (don’t ask me to explain where this came from!).  I thought that we wouldn’t click. Then I met her and walked away thinking, “wow, I REALLY like her!”. This is helping to change my preconceived notions of families needing help from services.

3. The family has moved twice within the 3 months that I’ve been involved. As a result, I’ve been to areas of our town that normally I would drive through but have no reason to stop.  Through this placement, I’ve gotten to know adults and children that otherwise I’d never know. It’s a shame that middle class me and living below the poverty line them don’t have many opportunities to rub shoulders.

4. As a pastor’s wife who leads youth group, volunteers in nursery, etc. etc. it’s not that I’m without volunteer opportunities. I’m starting to believe that its important to volunteer in the church and outside of it. I appreciate being  involved with and connected to our community in a way that I wouldn’t be otherwise.

5. You’ve likely heard this before: I feel like I’m getting more out of volunteering than I’m giving! At certain times, I walk away feeling that I should have to pay for all that I’m learning through this placement. Volunteering can be truly energizing in-spite of going outside of comfort zone.

The past couple of months have been difficult. During a season of grief, I began this volunteer role (its just how the timing came together). I like to think that my “special friend” has helped to keep me afloat. Sometimes, I don’t necessarily feel in the mood to volunteer. Those tend to be the times that I go home with a full heart. Grateful that I pushed past my comfort zone to hang out with a boy. A kid who has had a tough life. And yet, a kid who is teaching me so very much.

How to help someone with mental illness

People often wonder what they can do to help a loved one with a mental illness. Rest assured, there are things that you can do. The following are 5 ways to help. If you have something to add to this list please do!

5 ways that you can help someone with mental illness: 

1.  Just as someone with a heart condition needs to utilize medical assistance to stay well, so does the person with mental illness.  You can help by assisting the person in finding appropriate supports and you can help to validate the need for this. Most often, this help comes in the form of counseling and/or seeing a doctor.

2. If the person is hospitalized, visit them! Unfortunately those hospitalized for mental illness tend to receive less visitors and flowers than those hospitalized for other medical conditions. Visit as often as you are able and bring flowers or a special gift for them.

3. Seek to learn as much as you can about your loved ones illness. The internet is not always a reliable database. Ask those who work in mental health what resources they would recommend. See if your loved one will let you come to an appointment with their doctor or counselor so that you can learn more.

4. Let the person know that you are a safe person to talk to. End stigma by letting them know that they can be honest with you re: dark thoughts. Taking this a step further, also remind them of their local crisis number (24/7 service) plus the option of going to the ER if ever needed to keep safe.

5. Tell your loved one of what you look forward to in the future together. Most tend to feel discouraged after receiving a diagnosis of mental illness. Encourage them that their diagnosis doesn’t make up the whole of who they are. Remind them of:  who they still are  (positive aspects of their life and personality) and the exciting possibilities that still lay ahead.

Do you have anything else you’d add to this list? If so, please leave a comment below. Thank you for thinking about how you can better support your loved one with mental illness.

For further reading, click here: HOW TO HELP A LOVED ONE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS