Robin Williams' Death: Details of Suicide Draw Public Flak on Social Media

by Vishnuprasad on Aug 13 2014 3:12 PM

Robin Williams` Death: Details of Suicide Draw Public Flak on Social Media
Too much detail of the suicide of Oscar winning veteran actor Robin Williams drew flak on the social media on Wednesday, with public and fans terming it to be ‘disgusting’ and ‘disrespect to the actor and his family’.
Most of the fans highlighted the request of Susan Schneider, wife of the ace actor, for privacy. In a statement to a prominent daily, she said, “I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one if its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief.”

A day later, Marin County Assistant Deputy Chief Coroner Lieutenant Keith Boyd released graphic facts about the beloved actor’s suicide during a press conference. The level of detail disclosed offended many who watched coverage of the news conference.

At a news conference Keith Boyd revealed that Williams had made two attempts on his life in his final hours. The official then went on to disclose what those attempts were and the position in which Williams’ body was found.

While the level of detail Lt Boyd provided is routinely available on a coroner’s report for any member of the public to view upon request, it is not often that officials discuss them in front of cameras and a podium capped with microphones.

The news conference was broadcast on several TV stations and live-tweeted by members of the media, all of which drew the ire of the public.

Alesa, a die-hard fan of the actor, tweeted, “Having a press conference and offering up private details about Robin Williams death is so wrong. No ones business but the family. Respect them.”

Another fan, Alex Leo, wrote, “The amount of info being given out about Robin Williams’ death is shocking. Holding a press conference to give gory details is horrible.”

Lifeline, an Australian charity providing suicide and crisis support services, said it did "not think it is appropriate to be so explicit in reporting a death by suicide", and urged media outlets to be responsible in their coverage.

The charity organization acknowledged that Williams’ death was newsworthy, and coverage could raise awareness in the community about the need to seek help.

Still, going into such detail about the circumstances of Williams’ death, including the means of his suicide, could have a negative impact on vulnerable members of the community.

Meanwhile, Lifeline chairman John Brogden said that releasing such detail could increase the likelihood of distressed individuals making similar attempts on their own lives.

“Journalists play a key role in raising awareness of these issues, but stories about suicide in the media can harm or cause distress for some members of the community,” he said.

Writer Mark Masek, who has written about Hollywood deaths and runs a cemetery guide website, said that Lt Boyd was releasing details that were inevitably going to come out anyway.

“The public expects it, so the media demands it. Or some sleazy website will pay for it, and others will have to repeat it,” he tweeted.

Lt Boyd did tell reporters that the department was taking precautions to keep other details of Williams’ death private. The autopsy was performed in Napa County, where a government-run facility operates. In Marin County, authorities use a private company for its autopsies, Lt Boyd said. The department chose to go to Napa to ensure no photos or details would be leaked, he said.

Death sparks conversation about depression and metal disorder

The ace actor was found dead last Monday and he was 63. He was found at his home in California. The actor’s publicist confirmed he had been battling severe depression.

Registered Psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrance said, “The external stuff, the money, the fame, the adulation, the awards, clearly is not enough. If you don’t have it inside, if you aren’t feeling it inside it’s almost like that stuff actually mocks you.”

“If I were to complain to you, I would feel like a complainer, or people would come down on you like ‘What do you have to complain about?’” Ferrance said.

Meanwhile, staff at Edmonton’s Support Network said Williams’ death has shone a spotlight on depression, and the desperate need to eliminate the stigma attached to it.

“I don’t think we understand depression. We don’t know what it means when someone is thinking of killing themselves,” said Nancy McCalder, Executive Director of the Support Network.

McCalder said she hopes more people speak up, and break down barriers surrounding depression.

That’s the best thing we can do is start a conversation, and the best way to do that is to self-disclose, say ‘I too, I’ve had depression. I’ve had periods in my life that have been really difficult.’”

The Support Network said there are ways to reach out to others who may be dealing with depression to look for severe risk factors such as withdrawing from daily life, not keeping plans, and statements that life isn’t worth living, for example.

They’re suggested to be direct, to ask that person if they are thinking of killing themselves, and to ask if they have thought of a plan. Officials said the risk increases with the amount of detail put into any suicide plan.

Robin Williams’ life

Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams became one of only two students accepted into John Houseman’s prestigious acting program at Julliard, the other being Christopher Reeve, who became a lifelong friend.

Williams, one of the most beloved American entertainers of his generation, gained fame as Mork, the bizarre, suspenders-sporting alien on the iconic American sitcom Mork & Mindy, a spinoff from Happy Days.

He was dubbed as “the funniest man alive” by Entertainment Weekly in 1997, brought people hours of laughter, putting his imaginative spin on characters in film and television.

He was also praised for his serious roles. Williams’ performance as Sean Maguire, the therapist who counsels Matt Damon’s math genius in Good Will Hunting (1997), earned him Oscar award for the best supporting actor.

He was also nominated for his performances in films like The Fisher King (1991), Dead Poets Society (1989) and Good Morning, Vietnam (1987).

He used to depart from the script so often that producers intentionally left blank moments on page for Williams to have space to indulge his ad-libbing genius.

Most recently, Williams had starred in the new CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones. It was cancelled after just one season.