Public vs. Private Persona

The recent suicide of Robin Williams shocked most of his fans but was not likely a surprise to his closest friends and family.  While the public knew him for his manic comedy, his engaging personality, his charitable activities and his superb acting skills, those who knew him well were aware of the depression and substance abuse that plagued his private life.

While the untimely death of an entertainment giant may, in the public's mind, be associated with the nature of celebrity itself (especially in the realm of actors and musicians), we all manifest a public persona that, at least to some degree, differs from our private one.  In many cases, a public display of confidence, enthusiasm and happiness serves to mask the pain of our personal life.  In others, a cheerful, quiet and friendly disposition runs counter to violent or aggressive behavior at home.  Indeed, persons charged with domestic abuse or serial murder are often described by neighbors and casual associates as reclusive and mild mannered.

Persons with significant emotional or psychological problems may successfully hide them from family and friends for a period of time but, eventually, their severity becomes evident.  It is then imperative that  these trusted individuals use their influence to encourage that person to seek appropriate health care services before tragic consequences result.  Unfortunately, as we saw in Robin Williams' case, even the best efforts are not always successful.