Matt’s View: Attitudes to depression and suicide must change after the death of Robin Williams

15:02 17 August 2014

Like many people I was saddened to read this week about the death of Robin Williams.

People of a similar age to me will remember Williams as the star of many of defining movies of our childhoods; Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, er, Flubber. And the 63-year-old was also a prodigiously talented stand-up, who is well worth looking up on YouTube if you’re not familiar with his work.

Sadly I feel Williams’ apparent suicide has led to some distasteful reactions in the media this week.

TalkSPORT radio presenter Alan Brazil claimed that he “didn’t have a lot of sympathy” for those who take their own life, saying on Monday: “I believe he’s got a daughter as well, what’s she feeling like this morning? Now she’s got to sort the arrangements out. I think it’s shocking, I really do. I don’t have a lot of sympathy, I’m sorry.”

Brazil’s attitude towards suicide and mental health problems is one that is probably echoed by many people, and I think it needs to change. There’s no way it would be acceptable for a presenter to say on air that they didn’t have sympathy for someone with cancer, but to have depression is a similarly debilitating and, often, fatal illness.

I believe it’s impossible to understand depression unless you’re the person who’s depressed, so reactions like Brazil’s show a staggering level of ignorance.

But the chance to have a proper debate about mental health problems and their prevalence in society will probably be lost because the newspapers seem obsessed by the method with which Williams took his life, rather than the reasons for it. You only have to look at the front pages of many national papers on Wednesday to find myriad gory details of what happened at the star’s home.

Obviously the newspapers have a duty to report the facts, but do we need this kind of stuff plastered across our front pages in such ghoulish fashion? It seems to me it’s purely there to titillate readers, rather than inform them.

“It’s noticeable that some newspapers are ignoring the Samaritans’ media reporting guidelines. Some articles are dwelling on the method,” Dr Claudia Hammond, presenter of BBC radio 4’s All In The Mind, told The Guardian. “This could be all it takes to encourage someone who was contemplating suicide to actually do it.”

I hope this isn’t the case, and that next time someone high profile commits suicide, it will be handled in a more sensitive fashion by the media.

• The Samaritans can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Royston Crow visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Royston Crow staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Royston Crow account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More news stories

17:02
Wimpole is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of the great landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 2016 with a diverse programme of themed events, starting with a contemporary artwork installation.

The team at Wimpole Hall is marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of landscape designer Capability Brown this year with a programme of themed events which begin this weekend.

12:02
Knebworth House is among the attractions that will be giving away free tickets as part of the Big Weekend.

People living in Herts have until Tuesday to bid for the chance to visit some of the county’s best tourist attractions free of charge during a ‘Big Weekend’ in March.

08:32
Callum Atkins, 8, Jonathan Lewinton-Wilson, 7, Izzy Arnott, 8, Headteacher Tara McGovern, Megan McGloin, 7, pictured with their new school mosaic

Visitors to a village school can now marvel at a mosaic created by pupils, staff and members of the community that welcomes them to the entrance hall.

Yesterday, 12:02
Victims are being urged to come forward if they experience any form of domestic abuse.

Valentine’s Day is globally recognised as the day to be spoilt by the one you love, but Hertfordshire’s County Community Safety Unit is asking you to consider how you are being ‘treated’ tomorrow, to raise awareness of domestic abuse and coercive control.

”North

Most read stories

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Royston Crow e-edition E-edition