When legendary actor Robin Williams passed away on Aug. 11, 2014, suicide was the last thing on people’s minds. Fans around the globe gaped in astonishment as it was revealed that our famous friend — the man behind some of the greatest and most heartfelt moments in cinema — had taken his own life. Behind those iconic, smiling eyes were hidden layers of darkness, which had been tearing away a man’s soul for many years. As Williams gave us joy, he, himself, was lacking it.
It can be hard to fathom how highly successful people can become victims of depression and its frightening effects. Society teaches us that beauty, money, and fame are the pinnacles of a perfect existence — achieve these things, and you’ll be able to taste the elixir of the gods. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Of course, Williams is far from being the only celebrity who has succumbed to their vicious inner demons. Earlier this year, fashion designer and businesswoman Kate Spade took her own life, leaving behind an impressive legacy tainted by tragedy. Just last year, the music world mourned the loss of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, both of whom had a lasting impact on music culture, yet were unable to live with the sadness that was clearly conveyed through their music.
For each of these celebrities, the lives that the public saw were far from the true selves that were hidden inside of them. Perhaps the personas we carry through the world are just that — illusory, flimsy representations of the images we desire other people to see.
For those who live with depression, every day can feel like slowly making one’s way through a masquerade ball. Wearing a mask may temporarily provide a sense of security and allurement, but the air can get stale, and sooner or later, one starts to suffocate. Simply, people cannot live under a false identity forever if their desire is to find true happiness.
For Hannah Anderson, depression has become a cross she is forced to bear on a daily basis. The 24-year-old Loyola graduate student said the worst part of her daily struggles comes from her inability to express her feelings with friends.
“It can feel like I’m almost being weighed down by my emotions in a way, but I’m too afraid to tell my friends about the things that I’m struggling with,” Anderson said. “A lot of times, I’ll pretend to be happy in front of my friends, and it makes me feel so alone.”
For people who suffer from depression, it’s common to feel like a burden to others. This fear of ruining other people’s happiness can deter sufferers from seeking the help they need. While therapy and medications can help, it’s highly beneficial to confide in those whom you trust.
In Anderson’s mind, having conversations about mental health with friends and family members is essential for combating depression. She said that her decision to talk about her emotions more freely has had a profound influence on her mental health treatment.
“It’s definitely been difficult for me to open up to my friends and family about my depression, but I know it’s the best thing for me to do,” Anderson said. “I think it’s important to let other people know that it’s ok to feel a certain way sometimes, and talking to people about it will increase awareness about the situation and make them more understanding of what you’re going through.”
Depression affects millions of people from all walks of life, yet it’s an illness that can still be extremely difficult to manage and can elude even the most perceptible among us. It’s important to remember the difference between our true selves and the images that we project to the world, as we continue to care for ourselves and others. After all, some of the most obvious aspects of our daily lives can be hidden in plain sight.