Last night, the world was shocked to learn of the death of actor and comedian, Robin Williams. He touched lives through his movies, but was also described as a kind and generous individual in real life. Lethbridge residents experienced that first hand when he came to shoot a movie in the city, making an everlasting impression on those he met. Upon meeting Jesse Dykens on the street, he introduced himself as a Williams fan, but hadn’t heard the news yet. “I just found out. That’s just really sad,” said Dykens. “I remember all his movies. Mrs.Doubtfire, Patch Adams, all that was great. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.”
Williams’ career spanned generations. He got his big break on the television show, Mork and Mindy. “That’s where I got introduced to Robin Williams,” says resident Adam Wawrzyniak. “I think he’s one of the greatest comedians of all time.”
In 2005, during the shooting of the movie ‘RV’, he stayed at a hotel on Mayor Magrath Drive, and was seen multiple times around town. On the Global Lethbridge Facebook page, residents shared their stories of meeting Williams. I met him at the video store,’ commented Kellie Harsh Evetts. ‘He was very polite and signed autographs for my daughter.’
‘He came into the Safeway across the street from the Ramada hotel and at the time I was working in the deli department and I made him a spicy Italian sandwich. I was so nervous standing in his presence. Its a memory I will never forget,’ commented Tania Wiebe.
‘I was in Safeway getting groceries. I looked over at the deli and saw him standing there. He stopped to talk to me. It was as if we knew each other well the way he was. I asked for his autograph and he signed my grocery list. He was such a kind genuine man,’ wrote Jackie Thornhill.
The death of Robin Williams has brought the issues of depression and suicide back into the spotlight. Like so many others, he appeared fine on the outside, when in reality, was struggling. Jodie Mandick is a helpline supervisor with The Support Network. “When we think of Robin Williams, we don’t think about depression, we don’t think about mental health concerns, we don’t think about addiction which are all things he suffered from,” We think about how funny he was and how light he was.”
It’s a story we hear of often in Hollywood, but it happens even more, locally. “Here in Alberta, we have the third highest rate of suicide in Canada, so about five hundred people died from suicide last year,” says Mandick. “So it’s a really, really common issue here.”
Robin Williams spoke candidly of his addiction and depression problems throughout his career, but for so many, it’s an extremely sensitive topic. That’s why it’s important to speak openly if you suspect a loved one is dealing with mental illness. “The most important thing you can do is let your loved one know that you’re concerned about them,” says Mandick. “Ask really honestly, ‘I’m concerned about you, I love you, are you thinking of suicide?’ And whatever they say, be there to listen to them.”