Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead in his northern California home on Aug. 11, 2014. He was 63.
Editor's note: September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Dear Mr. Williams:
It is almost exactly one month since you are said to have taken your own life. I know differently. I know that major depression took your life, and that that illness had, on that day, completely obliterated the belief that your life could bring you--or anyone around you--anything but pain. Major depression had made even you, someone who made millions of people laugh for decades, completely unable to believe that you would laugh, again.
So many people don't understand what you felt that day. I do. You felt as though every minute of every day had turned into the feeling someone has when told that his child has died--that very same level of gut-wrenching grief, panic and helplessness. Every minute.
What's more, you felt as though those minutes would repeat themselves inescapably, infinitely and forever. And in that level of endless suffering you felt entirely alone, as though no one could fathom it and as though no one was relevant to it.
It was so black and so deep that it was the entire horizon, the sound of the whole world laughing at you, not with you, drowning out any feelings of love from any other human being or for any other human being.
Depression wasn't affecting you; it had become you. It had stolen reality from you. It was airless and without exit.
So many others feel or will feel what you did. Millions suffer with major depression, and many thousands must be contemplating suicide around the world today. Every day. And, because I have listened to so many of them, I want to write them words that will reach them, even through the abyss of suffering into which they have fallen. I wish I could have reached you, too.
Mr. Williams, I would have told you this: As hard as it was to believe at the time, the grief, panic and helplessness you were feeling were the vicious propaganda of a Grim Reaper--major depression--attempting to delude you into believing that life itself was a scourge.
I would have told you to look at every single negative moment you were experiencing that day as a cruel trick of perception, no different than if a kidnapper had spirited you away and drugged you.
I would have told you to entirely discount any conclusion you had come to about when the pain might stop or life might brighten, to not rely at all on your reasoning, because major depression as deep as yours had commandeered your logic. It had told you a nearly irresistible lie about yourself.
I would have told you to start talking back to your depression right away. That would have given us a little hope of you noticing that your depression was a very separate thing from you, and stalking you. I would have told you to literally tell it out loud to go f*ck itself, that it was a liar and a thug and that you were onto it, and you would see to it that it died before you. I would have told you to tell it that you would bear anything to defeat it, and that you would defeat it, because it couldn't outlast you, that it would have to kill you with it's own bare hands, not take over yours.
I would have told you to fight against the invader with everything and every resource, without pride. Deploy every weapon. And because the truth is the mortal enemy of every lie, I would have told you to get to an emergency room or call a suicide hotline or 911 and tell someone the absolute truth about all the dark thoughts you were having--yes, even the one about leaving the planet. Especially that one. Because that one is the big lie implanted in your mind by the Godforsaken charlatan, scum named major depression. Your enemy. And mine.
I would have told you to recruit soldiers to help you fight the war against depression and drive it from your the lands of your mind and soul.
Remember, no pride. Freedom is having nothing left to lose.
Ask a family member or a friend to stay by your side, 24/7. Walk into a psychiatrist's office unannounced and tell that person that you don't want to live another moment. Stop at the local police station and turn in the thief trying to steal your life by stealing your ability to believe that relief might be just a day, or a week, or a few weeks away. Give that thief no quarter.
This, too, Mr. Williams. Because enough data is in. I would have told you that your enemy--your depression--was a paper tiger, a weakling, a piece of crap, posing as the ultimate strongman. I would have told you that every depression is a fighter pumped up on steroids, with a glass chin, trying to scare you into throwing in the towel. Start punching back hard, and keep punching, and that loser will land on the canvas, with you standing strong, every single time. No exceptions. It could be the very next punch you throw that puts it down.
I know it is too late for you, Mr. Williams. I wish we could have talked. But it is not too late for the millions suffering with major depression. No, it is never too late when the enemy relies entirely on deception to do its dark work.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.