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Thread: ROBIN WILLIAMS ...a wake-up call for mental illness

  1. #1
    Mr RonPrice Ron Price's Avatar
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    ROBIN WILLIAMS ...a wake-up call for mental illness

    Part 1:

    News of the death of Robin Williams on 12/8/'14 stunned fans young and old. Comedians, actors, directors, many of the rich and famous who had been influenced by Williams paid their tributes. So, too, have millions of others now on social media in the first 48 hours since the first news of his suicide. Williams made his TV debut in the late 1970s TV comedy Mork & Mindy as a strange and lovable creature from outer space. At the time I had an 80 hour week with job responsibilities as a lecturer at what is now the University of Ballarat, and community responsibilities as the secretary of the local Baha'i community. I watched little TV in those years.

    Williams had been open about his struggles with alcohol and cocaine and in the past months had entered a rehabilitation centre to help him maintain sobriety. But many questions remain over his final months and what could have led to his death. This post attempts to answer some of the questions that will arise.

    On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, dozens of fans congregated around Williams' star on Tuesday, 12/8/'14, leaving flowers and candles to honour the versatile actor. Williams' appeal stretched across generations and genres, from family fare as the voice of Disney's blue genie in Aladdin to his portrayal of a fatherly therapist in the 1997 drama Good Will Hunting. Williams won the best supporting actor Oscar in 1998 for that portrayal.

    The 1998 movie, Patch Adams, in which Williams plays a medical student who battled convention to treat his patients using laughter, earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Some of the most humorous and touching scenes of Williams' from his favourite roles to his recipe for success can be found now in cyberspace.

    In 1998 I was just about to retire after a 50 year student-and-paid-employment-life, 1949 to 1999, and did not learn of the film until several years after I had taken a sea-change and an early retirement at age 55. In recent years I have watched more TV, at least two hours a day on average and have seen much of Robin Williams.

    Part 2:

    Williams' career was launched in 1973 when he became one of only 20 students accepted into the freshman class at Juilliard and one of only two students accepted into the Advanced Program at the school that year; the other was Christopher Reeve. The Juilliard School is widely regarded as one of the world's leading music schools, with some of the most prestigious arts programs. In 1973 my teaching career had just begun to take-off when I was teaching in South Australia's first open plan secondary school. That same year I was hired to teach in Australia's first human relations training program for trainee teachers at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. Of course, I knew nothing of Williams back then and neither did the millions and billions who would come to know him in the next 40 years.

    Williams said that the favourite role which he played was Oliver Sachs in Awakenings. He said that he saw the role as a gift because he got to meet Sachs, and got to explore the human brain from the inside out. "Oliver writes about human behaviour subjectively," said Williams, "and that for me was the beginning of my fascination with human behaviour." "In his stand-up specials and chat-show appearances," wrote a reviewer yesterday in The Economist, "he never seemed hold anything back. Dripping with sweat, pouring out words in torrents, he seemed to have no filters between his buzzing brain and the outside world. He could be endearingly open and honest about his own problems, his addiction to alcohol and cocaine, even while improvising delirious flights of fancy and flitting from character to character. Viewers loved him for it. Mr Williams had a versatility that few comedy superstars have matched."1

    Part 3:

    In June 2014 Williams spent time in the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota, which helps patients maintain long-term sobriety. The death of Williams shook Hollywood, and colleagues mourned the loss of what many called a big-hearted man and one of the most inventive comedians of his time. "Robin Williams' suicide doesn't cross the line, but it comes very, very close to it," said Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention(AFSP).

    "Suicide should never be presented as an option. That's a formula for potential contagion. Adolescents are most at risk of suicide contagion; in recent years, groups like AFSP have also become particularly attentive to the role the internet plays in romanticising notorious or high-profile deaths, something it has long asked both the news and entertainment industries to avoid.

    One family acquaintance was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as follows: "Williams always had this sadness about him, this melancholy.” He had never been diagnosed with clinical depression or bipolar disorder which is not to say he did not suffer from the ravages of these mental health issues. He had the money to afford the best treatment, but the sad truth is that, in some cases, even the best isn’t enough to save people." Mental health is a highly complex subject. I know a little about the subject having had to deal with depression and bipolar 1 disorder for over 70 years.

    Part 4:

    According to government statistics compiled in 2010, 60 percent of Americans with mental illness got no treatment within the previous year. People reported a variety of reasons—they couldn't pay for it, they thought they'd be fine, they didn't want others to learn about it. Even if that 60 percent figure is exaggerated, and even if conditions have improved, the problems are still widespread. And they are obviously not confined to the USA.

    Although we’re accustomed to hearing about artists and their hidden "demons," Williams was such an effervescent, joyous presence that his struggles could put into sharper relief just how life-altering and devastating mental illness can be. They also put into sharp relief the seductive and insinuating quotient that is mental illness and, more so, when addictions and the frenzy of renown, celebrity, are mixed-into the equation. If he couldn't conquer it on his own, who could? The lesson would be, could be, one last, great contribution from an artist who has made so many contributions already.

    "A quarter of the population suffers from mental health issues that could potentially drive suicidal thoughts," Moutier said. "This is a very important issue, from a public health standpoint, and one we need to bring to light."2-Ron Price with thanks to 1 The Economist, 12/8/'14, and 2The Washington Post, 13/8/'14.

    Part 5:

    It is my understanding
    from what I have read
    about you, Robin, that
    you never received the
    diagnosis....depression
    and bipolar disorder..I
    can hardly believe this!

    Your addictions and your
    health problems certainly
    seem to indicate at least a
    variety of bipolarity that is
    known as cyclothymia, and
    depression. I look forward
    in the weeks ahead to reading
    some of the analyses of what
    the mental health issues that
    you faced. Your death gives
    society a wake-up call to deal
    with mental health problems,
    alcohol & the many addictions.

    Ron Price
    13/8/'14.
    Last edited by Ron Price; 08-31-2014 at 12:24 AM. Reason: To update the wording
    Ron Price is a Canadian who has been living in Australia for 42 years(in 2013). He is married to a Tasmanian and has been for 37 years after 8 years in a first marriage. At the age of 69 he now spends most of his time as an author and writer, poet and publisher. editor and researcher, online blogger, essayist, journalist and engaging in independent scholarship. He has been associated with the Baha'i Faith for 60 years and a member for 53 years.cool:

  2. #2
    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Great post, thank you.
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

  3. #3
    Registered User Frédéric Moreau's Avatar
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    Thank you for the post, he was a great artist. He always seemed to me a well-meaning man.

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    Today there have been reports that Mr. Williams had also been suffering from the beginning stages of Parkinson's disease.

  5. #5
    Mr RonPrice Ron Price's Avatar
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    Thanks, folks, for your responses. Before leaving I'll post some general thoughts from one of my favorite psychoanalysts.-Ron
    ----------------------------
    ERICH FROMM

    Part 1:

    Erich Fromm(1900-1980) was a theorist who brought other theories together. He also emphasized how one's personality is embedded in class, status, education, vocation, and religious and philosophical background, among other social determinants. Fromm held the view that humans need to live and feel part of a genuine community. Fromm was a medical doctor and practising psychiatrist; he explained people's drives in terms of social interaction, and mental illness in terms of the failure of the individual to relate properly with other individuals. The role of biological and genetic determinants in mental health problems and individual behaviour was not part of his focus.

    Since my autobiography and my personality is embedded to a great extent in the same factors that Fromm describes and, since I have come to the view that this same autobiography and personality is also a result of biological and genetic factors, it is timely to say a few words about Erich Fromm's ideas in my prose-poetic.

    Part 1.1:

    Erich Fromm is known not only as an author and significant humanist of the 20th century, but also as a psychoanalyst and social psychologist. Erich Fromm affected the world like almost no other German-born social scientist. His writings and realizations are read and recognized worldwide. The International Erich Fromm Society works to maintain, to research, to develop further and to pass on Erich Fromm’s scholarly findings and ideas as the fitting continuation of his international work and in recognition of his worldwide significance.

    The year I began my pioneering experience, 1962 at the age of 18, Erich Fromm, American psychoanalyst and prolific writer in the field of existential psychology, stated his 'credo' in his book Beyond the Chains of Illusions. I have written some of his Credo below since it was consistent with my views back in 1962 and it still is. I have commented on some of his Credo expressing views that have remained part of my beliefs during this lifelong pioneering venture spanning, as it does now, more than fifty years. I read Fromm's books for thirty years, from the 1960s through the 1990s.-Ron Price with thanks to Michael Maccoby, "The Two Voices of Erich Fromm: The Prophetic and the Analytic," Society, July/August 1994.

    Part 2:

    "The most important factor for the development of the individual is the structure and the values of the society into which he has been born." Given this fact, my role as a Baha'i has been to spend my life trying to build the kind of society fit for human beings to be born into. For, as Fromm says in his Credo, "society has both a furthering and an inhibiting function. Only in cooperation with others, and in the process of work, does man develop his powers, only in the historical process do humans create themselves.

    Only when society's aim will have become identical with the aims of humanity will society cease to cripple man and to further evil." In attempting to transform society, Fromm underestimated the need for individuals to adapt to their society. For the Baha'i to be an effective teacher, propagator, of the New Society he has become associated with, he needs to adapt to the larger society in which he has been born and in which he lives his life. The difficulties I had in the first decade of my pioneering experience came, it seems to me in retrospect, from a slow adapting to my society. Later, in the following decades, my effectiveness was due significantly to my more effective adapting to my society.

    Part 3:

    This adaptive process is slow and arduous work and, for Baha'is, it takes place in the context of action toward goals using a map provided by the Founders of their religion and the legitimate Successors. "I believe that every man represents humanity. We are different as to intelligence, health and talents. Yet we are all one. We are all saints and sinners, adults and children, and no one is anybody's superior or judge. We have all been awakened with the Buddha, we have all been crucified with Christ, and we have all killed and robbed with Genghis Khan, Stalin, and Hitler.

    Man's task in life is precisely the paradoxical one of realizing his individuality and at the same time transcending it and arriving at the experience of universality. Only the fully developed individual self can drop the ego." Perhaps this is one way of defining the nature of 'Abdu'l-Baha and the reason for his effectiveness and efficiency. -Ron Price, Pioneeering Over Four Epochs, 9 October 2002.

    Part 4:

    There is much truth here, Erich, and
    I must thank you for your wonderful
    and illuminating books,1 enriching as
    they did my life, & approximating the
    jewelled wisdom of this lucid Faith, a
    Faith that I set out with in '62 when I
    moved to Dundas and began to pray
    in those back streets on afternoons in
    the small town to which I had moved,
    to read from sweet-scented streams, &
    taste of the fruits of His tree in years
    when my father's white hair blew in the
    wind for the last time, my mother was
    driven to the end of her tether, and that
    charisma became institutionalized at the
    apex of this wondrous, and new Order.

    1 Erich Fromm, Beyond the Chains of Illusions, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1962, pp.174-182, and many other books to 1994.

    Ron Price
    9 October 2002
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Part 4.1:

    Freud’s life’s work had been devoted to understanding as fully as possible the world of man’s soul. To Freud psyche and soul were the same, conscious and unconscious mental life, although this subject is complex and highly nuanced. Psychoanalysis is the science of the soul. -Erich Fromm, The Art of Listening, Constable, London, 1994, p.75.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Part 5:

    In the 15 August 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books Alan Ryan, in his "The Art of Being Erich Fromm", reviews The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet by Lawrence J. Friedman, with assistance from Anke M. Schreiber, Columbia University Press, 410 pages. Friedman begins his review as follows:

    "Some readers will recall being given a copy of Erich Fromm’s popular The Art of Loving in high school or college, usually remembering it with gratitude, but sometimes with a sense that its reliance on the ideas of Freud and Marx now makes it not only unfashionable, but old-fashioned." I was not given this book but I read it while at university in the years 1963 to 1967.

    "Still others may recall their first reading of Escape from Freedom," continues Friedman, "one of the earlier attempts to explain what became known as the authoritarian personality: it was provoked by astonishment that so many otherwise rational people followed leaders such as Hitler, but it was much more wide-ranging in its exploration of the fear of freedom and the longing to be dependent." I had also read that book in those 4 years at two universities in Ontario.

    "Still others may remember Fromm as a political activist, prominent in the antiwar movement from the early 1950s, and visible for the last time on the public stage as an adviser to Eugene McCarthy during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1967–1968." I was getting ready to teach Inuit kids at the time, and then recovering from teaching them back in those years. Erich Fromm was not on my horizons.
    Last edited by Ron Price; 08-31-2014 at 12:23 AM. Reason: To update the wording
    Ron Price is a Canadian who has been living in Australia for 42 years(in 2013). He is married to a Tasmanian and has been for 37 years after 8 years in a first marriage. At the age of 69 he now spends most of his time as an author and writer, poet and publisher. editor and researcher, online blogger, essayist, journalist and engaging in independent scholarship. He has been associated with the Baha'i Faith for 60 years and a member for 53 years.cool:

  6. #6

    Thumbs up ROBIN WILLIAMS ...a wake-up call for mental illness

    Amazing post thank you for that. rest in peace Robin you was a great actor

  7. #7
    Mr RonPrice Ron Price's Avatar
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    Staying on the subject of mental health, I'll add the following:
    -----------------------------------------------
    A GIRL-AND-A-BOY-INTERRUPTED

    Girl, Interrupted is a 1999 American drama film, and an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen's 1993 memoir of the same name. The film was released just as I was settling into an early retirement and a sea-change at the age of 55 in Australia's spring season, and just as I was beginning to take my own memoiristic literary activity seriously. The film chronicles Kaysen's 18-month stay at a mental institution in the late 1960s in North America.

    Directed by James Mangold, the film stars Winona Ryder as Kaysen, with a supporting cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg and Vanessa Redgrave. I saw the film last night,1 sixteen years after its release and as I was settling into the last decade of my late adulthood, the years from 70 to 80 according to one model of human development used by psychologists.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Channel11 TV, 24/25 March 2015, 9:30 p.m.-12:15 a.m.

    I had my stay, too, in a mental
    institution at the same time as
    was the setting for this film in
    the late 1960s....My stay only
    had six months, but it clearly
    was enough to give me points
    of comparison & contrast with
    what I saw in this period-piece.

    I, too, got on with my life as the
    1970s unfolded, and I learned to
    deal with the problems of bipolar
    disorder for I was a young adult,
    a boy interrupted for a time back
    then in the decade after that other
    film of fame1 gave its audiences a
    set of ideas about what it was like
    inside mental hospitals for those
    who had gone beyond life's edge
    of normality & coping capacity.

    Both films conveniently distract us in
    some ways from the inaccuracy of the
    reality of both institutional life & the
    life of the mentally-ill. The picture of
    life in such an institution1 where shock
    treatments were dispensed like aspirins
    and lobotomies were prescribed as if all
    those frontal lobes of patients were just
    troublesome wisdom teeth was a picture
    that has been improved-upon in this film,
    this filmic-period-piece some 25 years later
    as I was on my way to an early retirement,
    and a sea change, after a fifty year student-
    and-paid employment life from 1949 to '99.

    1 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was written in 1959, the year I joined the Baha'i Faith, and published in 1962, the year I began my travelling-and-pioneering for the Canadian Baha'i community. In the midst of the civil rights movement & deep changes to the way psychology & psychiatry were being approached in America these two films came out.

    The 1960s began the controversial movement towards deinstitutionalization, an act that would have affected the characters in Kesey's novel, and Kaysen's memoirs. The Kesey novel is a direct product of his time working the graveyard shift as an orderly at a mental health facility in Menlo Park, California.

    Ron Price
    25/3/'15
    Last edited by Ron Price; 03-25-2015 at 05:26 AM. Reason: To update the wording
    Ron Price is a Canadian who has been living in Australia for 42 years(in 2013). He is married to a Tasmanian and has been for 37 years after 8 years in a first marriage. At the age of 69 he now spends most of his time as an author and writer, poet and publisher. editor and researcher, online blogger, essayist, journalist and engaging in independent scholarship. He has been associated with the Baha'i Faith for 60 years and a member for 53 years.cool:

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