When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014, comparisons were made between Elliott Smith and the actor, probably due to the fact they were involved in the same movie, Gus Van Sant’s ‘Goodwill Hunting’. Elliott composed the music of the movie – and was even nominated for an Academy Awards for ‘Miss Misery’ – and Robin Williams played Sean Maguire. When the actor died, the terms suicide, paranoia, fear, anxiety and even the use of medication have been used to draw parallels.
‘Sadly it was not the first such tragedy connected to this fine film. Singer/song writer Elliott Smith whose haunting version of the Oscar nominated song “Miss Misery” also committed suicide in 2003 at the age of just 34.’ I read on the internet. ‘The loss of Robin Williams reminded me of Miss Misery, and Elliott’s struggles with depression. Be nice to everyone, because you never know what someone else is going through, even if they make everyone else smile,’ I could read elsewhere, and there were more than a few sentences like these ones. It’s easy to do the amalgam, two sensible guys who were suffering from depression,… and once again conclusions can be easily drawn without having all the facts. But who cares about the facts when a presidential candidate is running his campaign on made-up gross fantasies?
Robin killed himself, however it is important to understand that his case and Elliott’s were totally different. Robin Williams had a serious disease, called dementia. A recent article in the Huffington Post, tells us a bit more about the very sad situation, thanks to Susan Schneider Williams, Robin Williams’ widow, who wrote about her husband’s final year and the result of the autopsy. In a letter addressed to neurologists, she described what she calls the ‘terrorist’ or the Lewy bodies which had invaded Robin’s brain, making him forget things, plaguing him with delusions, paranoia, fear, anxiety and depression: ‘The massive proliferation of Lewy bodies throughout his brain had done so much damage to neurons and neurotransmitters that in effect, you could say he had chemical warfare in his brain’. The diagnostic was bleak and awfully simple, ‘There is no cure and Robin’s steep and rapid decline was assured,’ she wrote.
Robin Williams didn’t died without trying, he tried a lot of things, saw a lot of doctors, did a lot of tests as his disease was not diagnosed correctly at the beginning: ‘He went to therapy and worked out with his trainer, and he learned meditation, yoga, self-hypnosis and more to calm his anxiety.’ But he finally gave up, and who can blame him when there is no cure, no hope to get better and the only perspective to see life deteriorates?
This obviously has nothing to do with Elliott’s case. Robin had a serious and fatal disease, it was similar to a final stage of cancer, it was a death sentence, He had depression because he knew he was dying, he killed himself because he knew he would eventually die of a slow and horrible death. Elliott didn’t have a deadly disease, he suffered from depression and this is very different.
Robin’s death had little to do with common depression at the end, and he was not a candidate for suicide prevention. He was surrounded by people who loved him, and he loved them, but again he had this terrible disease, dementia, eating his brain. This fake Robin Williams-Elliott Smith connection is based on confusion, it demonstrates how people are too eager to draw conclusions based on their own interpretation and feelings and not on facts.