Shock and Sadness
How has the mental health community reacted to Robin Williams’ suicide? I’ve been reflecting on my own reaction as well as reading blog posts and news articles from other mental health professionals. Here’s my take on what we’re thinking.
Like everyone else, mental health professionals found themselves saddened and speechless at Williams’ loss. He was so unique and gave so much. He will be so missed.
But Why Couldn’t He Have…
It’s so natural for us to think, “But he was rich and famous – couldn’t he have brought himself out of this?”. There are two things we need to understand here:
Hedonic Adaptation – the term to describe the fact that we all get used to what we have. Almost all of us think that if we had more money, a new car, or more X, Y or Z we would be happier. And maybe, for a little while, we would. But we don’t stay delirious forever.Our minds adapt and whatever our current state soon becomes the daily grind. In the civilized world we already have more than most people. You probably already have more money and more stuff (cars, smartphones, TVs, etc.) than you had 10 years ago. Bet you’ve gotten used to it. Robin Williams had been famous for 30+ years. I’m sure he was used to it. I doubt it gave him the kind of joy we imagine it would give us. We are quite poor at what we call “emotional forecasting“: we think we’ll feel a certain way in the future, but we’re usually wrong.