Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

No laughing matter

Shafiqah Samarasam
Subang Jaya, Malaysia


Portrait of Robin Williams. Creative Commons.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” These were the words of Robin Williams, the man whose own laughter was enough to make us laugh. In a world where tragedy occurs every day, his words helped us to understand the poignant meaning behind it. “Comedian” is not enough to describe what this man was—he was our Genie, our Mrs. Doubtfire, our Mork, and even the one we looked for to finish our Jumanji game board.

The crippling feeling when he died, knowing that the man who seemed to be the happiest man alive had chosen to make an exit in the least satirical way, was utterly devastating. Depression and suicide go horrifyingly hand in hand. It is almost selfish to argue that the latter is a good solution to the former. However, having experienced depression myself, suicide at one point seemed to be the only way to fight back against my own mind and achieve eternal clarity.

Depression is a game of the mind that plays intense tricks upon a person. It lurks within the brain, finding a way to force a person to bid farewell to sanity. Every issue has its roots, and depression stems from an inability to cope with things. While life is all about hurdling challenges and being content with temporary happiness, even the hardest working person would agree that at times what one needs is a break; a time to step back and reevaluate.

Sometimes life becomes a matter of concealing true feelings and putting on a mask to hide the pain. A person’s true feelings may never be known or addressed. Robin Williams, for example, presented an exterior of endless laughter while hiding the demons inside.

For me, Robin Williams had seemed to live life to the fullest. So when he decided that it was time to bid farewell to life, it gave me a different outlook. I myself have been in the dark hole of depression, deciding that I could not find any help. But something would prevent me from taking my own life: my family. My family was what helped me survive, assuring me that I could hold onto things.

Where can a person find help in this situation? Often times, mental health is swept under carpet. Seeking help for mental health issues is regarded as a taboo by many, and people are afraid they will be judged if they seek help. Issues of depression are often only addressed by those who have overcome their dark days, but rarely by those going through the process.

Many suffering from depression are likely to withhold their problems instead of having to reach out for help. After a long period of silent suffering, being surrounded by people who shower love and support can help a depressed person to feel connected. As such, it is important that we ourselves are open to receive help.

Many people are not willing to seek medical help for depression. But admitting that one needs help is actually brave. Being able to come forth and admit the need for help allows people to talk about how they feel and will ultimately add doses of positivity to their lives. Because depression has been regarded as a grave mental disorder, people are afraid to be stigmatized, even if they are on the brink of suicide. Countless suicides have in fact been carried out by those who felt that they have nowhere to turn. In situations where everything seems to be crumbling down, the idea of giving up should not exist.

Getting sufficient counselling and ensuring positivity in one’s life slowly helps in finding the silver lining. In addition to counselling, prescription medication is another form of treatment for depression and anxiety. Medication may help a person get on the right path without the intense rollercoaster of emotions. The development of antidepressants has helped with the process of relieving stress and providing an opportunity to understand oneself better without the cloud of negative thoughts. Although medications may be viewed in a more negative manner by some, they may be the key to ensuring the ability to live a calm and normal life.

As depression is a battle with oneself, we must not forget that we ourselves are the most important part of the cure. If our mind plunges constantly into an abyss, we feel less worthy and undermined by things around us. While we often thank others for helping us through life’s challenges, we often fail to love and appreciate ourselves. We keep ourselves at bay and never try to love ourselves to the fullest. To cease the battle with ourselves we must love ourselves.

We will always meet people or situations in life that do not favor our feelings, which in turn sends us into a whirlwind of emotions. We need to prepare and make ourselves immune ourselves to this. When we feel depressed, it helps to switch off for a moment to release our stress; it does not help to ignore our emotions without facing them. As cliché as it sounds, it pays to live, love, and laugh. One should take the opportunity to invest in things that will aid them: this can be journaling one’s emotions, playing sports, or just listening to music while lounging. Doing small things can help tremendously.

If Robin Williams would have lived through his ordeal, he would have continued to make people laugh at every opportunity. It is one thing to make others happy, but it is just as important to ensure that we ourselves are happy. Depression is not a joke, and it requires our attention to know that we can be vulnerable our own emotions. When one needs support to steer towards the right path, stand up high, place your hand towards your heart, and whisper these words of assurance—

O captain, my captain.



  1. Robin Williams Quotes – BrainyQuote. BrainyQuote. Available at: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/robin_williams. Accessed December 11, 2017.
  2. ‘Suicide Is Not Selfish’: Author on Robin Williams’ Death. Time. 2017. Available at: http://time.com/4448763/robin-williams-suicide/. Accessed December 11, 2017.
  3. Why Keeping Quiet About Your Mental Health Struggles is Dangerous. Stresstherapistnet. 2017. Available at: http://www.stresstherapist.net/repetitive-negative-thought-patterns/stop-those-bullies. Accessed December 12, 2017.
  4. Rice-Oxley M. The truth about depression: six people speak out. The Guardian. 2017. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/14/truth-about-depression. Accessed December 12, 2017.
  5. beyondblue. Beyondblueorgau. 2017. Available at: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/treatments-for-depression/medical-treatments-for-depression. Accessed December 18, 2017.



SHAFIQAH SAMARASAM is a 20-year-old writer from Malaysia. She is currently a student at INTI International College Subang, undertaking her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication. She has been writing for four years and has published a few local and international articles. She is an aspiring writer and is working towards establishing herself as a writer both in her home country of Malaysia and internationally.


Winter 2018  |  Sections  |  Psychiatry & Psychology

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