Off the record: why depression hurts

By: Sam Fatula | a&e editor

Just over two weeks ago, we lost one of the greatest entertainers to have ever graced the big screen and television to one of the most common diseases that exists in society. This was not caused by cancer, addiction or any kind of infectious illness, (though they are all serious diseases in their own right and deserve the same capacity for awareness and fundraising as any.)

Robin McLaurin Williams was tragically found dead in his California home on Aug. 11 from what appeared to be suicide, possibly due to severe depression as reported by his publicist.

Although Williams is one of the most famous people who recently committed of suicide as a response to depression, he is just one of the millions other people per year who also ended their lives, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.

Since his reported death on August 11, social media and various other news outlets have been frequently discussing the awareness of mental health and its severity as a disease, though not all adopted the same impression that depression-based suicide is a serious issue.

Former lead singer and lyricist of California punk-rock pioneers Black Flag, Henry Rollins wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times last Thursday addressing not only Williams’ suicide, but sharing personal stories of friends who fell to the same fate. In his piece, shockingly titled “F$%k Suicide,” Rollins went as far as to say that when people commit suicide, he no longer takes that person seriously.

“I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them,” Rollins continues. “Their life wasn’t cut short — it was purposely abandoned.”

This article did not take long to go viral on numerous platforms, mostly from people openly criticizing everything Rollins had stated in his column. The feedback was so negative, that Rollins quickly released another column days later, even retracting some statements he had previously made.

Whether or not these retractions are genuine, it is impossible for myself and many others to forget what was said.
I observe a man like Henry Rollins and see someone who has gone through his entire life in the everlasting battle of anti-establishment, causing rebellion and denying that the status quo ever held acceptable mores. To abandon his views so quickly that he was once so adamant about was rather unlike him, to say the least.

Black Flag, along with generation defining artists like Nirvana, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, NWA, etc. have in some way or form influenced or affected an entire culture through the music they compose. Some people take music as a way to take action, others to feel a sense of belonging. Many have used music as a coping mechanism, which has been recently associated with the term, emo over the past decade.

In short, emo-related bands like Fall Out Boy, Dashboard Confessional and My Chemical Romance had at one time approached these harsh topics, and for some got them out of hard times that could have lead to dangerous actions of self-mutilation or perhaps worse.

For a musician and social activist such as Henry Rollins not to understand and simply ignore the empowerment of what music and a simple laugh can do for people—let alone help with the severity of depression and suicide—is disheartening. His analysis of a disease that affects millions was clearly in response of a single man who happened to be a celebrity and refuses to acknowledge the indecisiveness that depression could bring.

Instead of having an issue of who is right or wrong, the real solution is to continue to aid others that suffer from depression. Robin Williams is simply an example of someone who went unattended until he reached a breaking point. He will not be the last, but we must do our part to potentially save a life and aid those who suffer. Mourning the loss of someone who made us smile is expected, now we should do the same for others.