Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

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Ben
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Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Ben » Wed Aug 13, 2014 11:02 pm

I mention my story because there's not just a social stigma around mental health issues, there's also a Buddhist one. I have seen some Buddhist teachers make remarks about depression as a form of suffering; that one should be able to meditate and have everything be okay, in lieu of prescription medication. That is not true; meditation is not a cure-all for mental illness. The Buddha never taught a discourse entitled, "Don't Help Yourself, Continue to Suffer Your Chemical Imbalance." If you have a mental illness, meditation may be helpful, but should be considered an addition to, not a substitution for, prescribed medication.
-- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lodro-rin ... 72580.html
:candle:
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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SarathW
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by SarathW » Wed Aug 13, 2014 11:14 pm

Two of my very closed one's took anti depression medication and attempted suicide.
One died and other came back from a coma after about two months.
I had a mild depression and manage it by meditation. (Metta meditation)
I do not know any one who died or committed suicide due to meditation. (except those monks mentioned in Sutta)
:thinking:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Ben
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Ben » Wed Aug 13, 2014 11:23 pm

SarathW wrote:Two of my very closed one's took anti depression medication and attempted suicide.
One died and other came back from a coma after about two months.
I am sorry for your loss. Different people react differently to different medication regimes. Sometimes someone may need to try different medications and dosages. Keep in mind that modern SSRI medications take up to six weeks to take effect. The important thing is to always seek help from a trained professional.
I had a mild depression and manage it by meditation. (Metta meditation)
Which is a very different thing from acute major depression which can be fatal.
I do not know any one who died or committed suicide due to meditation. (except those monks mentioned in Sutta)
:thinking:
That is a straw man, no one is arguing that one will commit suicide due to meditation.
Please reread what I have highlighted above in the quoted text.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

Dan74
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Dan74 » Thu Aug 14, 2014 4:25 am

It was a shock to me and to many people, I'm sure. He was such a bright presence, blessed in so many ways and obviously cursed in others, less visible to the outsiders. It is hard to know what it was like for him and as much as I know that taking one's life is not the answer, I would not for a moment judge someone who has. May he be well, may he find a better rebirth and find freedom from suffering. And may his children, family and friends find their way amidst their terrible grief.

I had a period of deep depression a few years ago triggered by persistent work stress and negativity, some family issues and a general sense of worthlessness. I thought of suicide every day for several months, multiple times a day, mostly in a wistful way as an escape, but sometimes more concretely. It was the thought of my children and the effect it would have on them, that kept me from doing anything, I think.

Other people likely have it much worse, much darker and the pain probably more profound and enveloping.

I guess like many others say, reaching out for help after hiding the pain, was a big step in the right direction. In my case it was reaching out to my wife. And her help gave me enough positive energy to remind myself of the Dhamma, to recall that the suffering was mind-made and can be unmade, to cut the cycle of feeding these thoughts and feelings (which had seemed out of my control, beyond my power to change) and sort of pull myself out by the bootstraps.

There are of course many different cases, some people do great with drugs, others with therapy. I was fortunate to manage with neither but that was probably because it was more related to short term circumstances and luckily I had some grounding in the Dhamma and great support network. Others are not so lucky.
_/|\_

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Weakfocus
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Weakfocus » Thu Aug 14, 2014 6:32 am

From what I've read, Mr. Williams had problem of not merely depression but also dependance on drugs/alcohol. He also had multiple marriages over his lifetime and the resultant stress that comes from them. So blaming his suicide on 'depression' seems rather unfocused, we might as well blame 'ignorance' which is indeed the cause of all suffering. We do not know whether it was his drug habits and failed relationships that lead him to depression or vice versa. Often all these issues are intertwined and an outsider cannot single out the cause and effect going on in the mind of another person.

There are cases of people benefiting from drugs in their fight against acute depression, and then there are also cases when drugs make things far worse. Personally when I was in my worst depths I refused to take the drug prescribed me because I searched online and was horrified by the side-effects some people experience. Ultimately I had to surrender and start 'self-medication': I started meditation (twice daily) and this is slowly dragging me out of the abyss I have fallen into. But I also know how close I have come to becoming a suicide statistic in the past, it was a near run thing for me and I have had the benefit of a very caring family (unlike many other people).

Personally I find Mr. Williams life -and death- a cautionary tale about the need for maintaining five precepts rather than a case for treating depression with drugs. His suffering would have been so much less and likely bearable had he not taken to using drugs and maintained one marriage (or celibacy after first divorce). That is the true cause of suffering, IMO, depression is the effect. Awareness should be raised about treating the cause and not the effect. Drugs may dull the pain and prevent a suicide attempt momentarily, but unless the person is guided on the path of dhamma he or she will transgress again and again, ultimately wasting their life's potential.

I am unsure, however, if humanity is ready for addressing the cause of all this misery. These days it is all the fashion to be liberated (aka unhinged) when it comes to sexual pleasures and drug/alcohol usage. Forget meditation, any attempt to stress the need for morality in daily life will likely be misconstrued by masses as religious fundamentalism and an impingement on 'personal freedom'. Guess we are all free to be as miserable as we want.

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Aug 14, 2014 6:45 am

Ben wrote:
I mention my story because there's not just a social stigma around mental health issues, there's also a Buddhist one. I have seen some Buddhist teachers make remarks about depression as a form of suffering; that one should be able to meditate and have everything be okay, in lieu of prescription medication. That is not true; meditation is not a cure-all for mental illness. The Buddha never taught a discourse entitled, "Don't Help Yourself, Continue to Suffer Your Chemical Imbalance." If you have a mental illness, meditation may be helpful, but should be considered an addition to, not a substitution for, prescribed medication.
-- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lodro-rin ... 72580.html
:candle:
I agree. Years ago I had serious ( clinical ) depression, and was on medication for about 18 months. During that period there was no way I could have meditated even if I'd wanted to.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:08 am

Weakfocus wrote:
Personally I find Mr. Williams life -and death- a cautionary tale about the need for maintaining five precepts rather than a case for treating depression with drugs. His suffering would have been so much less and likely bearable had he not taken to using drugs and maintained one marriage (or celibacy after first divorce). That is the true cause of suffering, IMO, depression is the effect. Awareness should be raised about treating the cause and not the effect. Drugs may dull the pain and prevent a suicide attempt momentarily, but unless the person is guided on the path of dhamma he or she will transgress again and again, ultimately wasting their life's potential.
Way too easy to write something as facile as this, but the reality of another's life is, to grossly understate it, not always easy to comprehend.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mkoll » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:12 am

Reuters Article wrote:While the Oscar-winner's death came as a bolt from the blue to the public, the actor's longtime friend and fellow comedian Bob Zmuda said he was not "totally shocked" by the news.

Zmuda, the founder of the charity Comic Relief for which the actor had helped raise more than $70 million, said that Williams had difficulty connecting with people off-stage and that even those who knew him well were unaware of how severe his depression was.

"Sometimes I would meet him one-on-one, he would be so uncomfortable, he really had no social skills, and that's probably one of the reasons he needed to be on stage," Zmuda said. "That was his life blood, that was his psychological imperative, and without that, he was pretty lost."

Budd Friedman, the founder of The Improv comedy clubs, last saw Williams about a year ago when the actor dropped by a club to perform a short routine. Friedman said in the 35 years he had known Williams, he had never seen any glimpse of his suffering.

"I don't know too many people who were that aware of that darkness in him," Friedman said.

Hours after Williams died on Monday, his representative Mara Buxbaum revealed, with unusual candor by Hollywood standards, that the actor and comedian had suffered from severe depression in recent months.

Comedy and depression have often been interwined, from Jim Carrey to Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman and Williams's own idol, Jonathan Winters, who died last year.

"There are a lot of comedians who come from the background of tragedy. Comedians have a lot of demons," said Jamie Masada, founder of The Laugh Factory comedy club where Williams often performed his stand-up routines.

After seeing the inner struggles of comedians such as Richard Jeni and Richard Pryor, Masada hired psychiatrists to provide treatment for the acts performing at his clubs.

"(Therapy) helps in many ways," said Masada. "It's not the cure, but at least I'm not sitting back watching them hurt."
It's interesting that looking at two people who knew Williams well, one was oblivious to his suffering whereas the other did. And it's clear now who was right. I think it shows how powerful perception is and how people's opinions can be so different from each other, all based on what is paid attention to.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mr Man » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:16 am

I think we need to be careful about making generalizations. If someone is committed to a certain course of treatment I wouldn't wish to interfere but the medical professions present view and treatment of depression is unlikely to be the final word. GP's prescribe anti-depressants (and other medication) very freely. I'm sure treatment is often dictated by expedience, budget, vested interests etc.

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:39 am

Mr Man wrote: GP's prescribe anti-depressants (and other medication) very freely.
That hasn't been my experience.
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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:44 am

Mkoll wrote:It's interesting that looking at two people who knew Williams well, one was oblivious to his suffering whereas the other did. And it's clear now who was right. I think it shows how powerful perception is and how people's opinions can be so different from each other, all based on what is paid attention to.
People can put a brave face on things and pretend everything's OK. It might be to protect others, it might be because of the stigma of mental illness, it might be due to the isolating effect of serious depression. In any case it isn't always easy to tell how somebody else is feeling.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mkoll » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:46 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Mr Man wrote: GP's prescribe anti-depressants (and other medication) very freely.
That hasn't been my experience.
It's true according to this study of some county in Minnesota, though I'd say change what Mr Man said myself to "they prescribe medication very freely, including antidepressants."
Mayo Clinic wrote:Overall, 68.1% of the population (n=96,953) received a prescription from at least 1 drug group, 51.6% (n=73,501) received prescriptions from 2 or more groups, and 21.2% (n=30,218) received prescriptions from 5 or more groups. The most commonly prescribed drug groups in the entire population were penicillins and β-lactam antimicrobials (17%; n=23,734), antidepressants (13%; n=18,028), opioid analgesics (12%; n=16,954), antilipemic agents (11%; n=16,082), and vaccines/toxoids (11%; n=15,918).
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by robertk » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:55 am

Ben wrote:[The important thing is to always seek help from a trained professional.

Ben
Can someone clarify . I thought i read that Williams did enter treatment programs etc and quite recently? Did he go to ones that treated him wrongly.

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Mkoll » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:57 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Mkoll wrote:It's interesting that looking at two people who knew Williams well, one was oblivious to his suffering whereas the other did. And it's clear now who was right. I think it shows how powerful perception is and how people's opinions can be so different from each other, all based on what is paid attention to.
People can put a brave face on things and pretend everything's OK. It might be to protect others, it might be because of the stigma of mental illness, it might be due to the isolating effect of serious depression. In any case it isn't always easy to tell how somebody else is feeling.
Of course one won't be able to tell exactly how somebody is feeling, but one can still have a good general idea about it. Especially for someone trained or someone who had gone through a similar experience themselves. It's a matter of perception.

In this case, one friend thought there was mental stress going on, the other friend was oblivious. This fact tells alone already tells me something about those friends' outlooks.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Robin Williams, depression, suicide and meditation

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:00 am

Mkoll wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
Mkoll wrote:It's interesting that looking at two people who knew Williams well, one was oblivious to his suffering whereas the other did. And it's clear now who was right. I think it shows how powerful perception is and how people's opinions can be so different from each other, all based on what is paid attention to.
People can put a brave face on things and pretend everything's OK. It might be to protect others, it might be because of the stigma of mental illness, it might be due to the isolating effect of serious depression. In any case it isn't always easy to tell how somebody else is feeling.
Of course one won't be able to tell exactly how somebody is feeling, but one can still have a good general idea about it. Especially for someone trained or someone who had gone through a similar experience themselves. It's a matter of perception.
Sure, it's more likely to be noticed by somebody with training or personal experience. But some people are very good at acting a part.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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