14 Robin Williams Movies That Have Helped People Through Depression

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Last December, while scrolling through submissions from our Mighty contributors, one headline stuck out: “An Angel at LAX,” from writer Kate Lyon Osher. On what happened to be a difficult personal day for me, I selfishly jumped to edit what I assumed would be a light, act-of-kindness story.

Instead, I read what I still consider one of the most powerful pieces we’ve had the privilege of publishing.

Turns out, that “angel” was Robin Williams, who, after watching Osher go through a heartbreaking altercation with TSA while grieving her husband’s suicide, approached her and offered the kind of condolences only a person who truly gets it could give. I won’t retell all of Osher’s story (seriously, go read it), but it gives us a glimpse into the kind of person Williams was — one who, despite his own pain, wanted to make everyone around him happy.

This is a quality people with depression know all too well and why Williams’ death has had such an impact on the mental health community. Though the comedian did talk openly about his depression and addiction, he was better known for making us laugh. For that, we’ll always be thankful.

Though we all don’t have the experience of meeting him in an airport, at one point or another, Williams probably inhabited our living rooms or movie theaters. His films have continued to comfort us all, especially when we are struggling. To commemorate this, we asked our mental health community to share the Robin Williams movies that help them when they’re struggling with depression. We hope he knew how much he meant to us.

So often, depression convinces us no one cares if we are here or not. Please don’t believe this. If you are struggling, reach out. There is help. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

We miss you, Robin. Thank you for the films below:

1. “Good Will Hunting”

“The scene where he is counseling Will (Matt Damon’s character) and he tells him, ‘It’s not your fault’ over and over again. When I was struggling so bad, that is all I wanted to hear from someone. I got so much reassurance from that scene.” — Madison T.

“I had always covered up my emotions with humor or tangents, too afraid to get close to someone, and pushed them away. It took my therapist and my fiance to help me, find me and accept I needed help, to know it wasn’t my fault. I’m doing better now, but still fight with demons daily.” — Kimberly T.

2. “What Dreams May Come”

“The movie had so much depth, and Robin Williams portrayed his character so well.
This movie has stayed with me, maybe because it touched on the big life questions about love, grief, betrayal, abandonment, hope, death, etc.” — Brenda N.

“Very underrated because many look at it as very dark and sad, but I see it as a testament to all that you can overcome if you never give up believing. That things are not always what they seem but rather the way in which you choose to see them.” –Jennifer T.

3. “Patch Adams”

“Patch Adams has always been a favorite of mine. It has its ups and downs (and always there for a good cry), but the lesson about living life and laughing whenever you can is a great reminder.” — Liz T.

“Having a doctor care about more than just the ‘science’ of an illness… them treating the patient’s emotional needs as well… it stuck with me. It’s actually what I look for in a doctor now. I need someone to see me as a person and not just as a mental illness.” — Lisa M.

“He spent so much time spreading joy. Even after a patient takes the love of his life he ends up returning and continuing his work. Did his heart break? Absolutely. Did he want to stop? Bet your ass he did. But he got up and continued to help people. He taught me: even broken people can make a difference.” — Angela B.

4. “Dead Poets Society”

“He was unconventional but inspired his class to be unconventional, too. To look at life differently. I love that unconventional can inspire and do good. It inspires me to try even though my mental illness makes me unconventional.” — Martha W.

“It was probably the first movie that dealt with mental health (specifically depression/suicide) that I ever saw, and it helped me understand some of those feelings within myself. It also was a huge inspiration for me to seek out the arts and poetry as a way to find connection.” — Jen L.

“No matter what, he just wanted those boys to find their voice and become independent. He didn’t care what happened to him. As long as he knew he made a small difference, he was happy. Knowing there are people out there who have that exact mindset eases my mind when trying to find the good in this world.” — Christa M.

5. “Aladdin”

“When Genie made the big speech about how he longed to be free — that resonates so much with me because isn’t that what we all want? To be free from our illnesses and to be able to control our own lives and our own feelings? It’s one of my favorite childhood movies so it also has the nostalgic side as well.” — Charlotte H.

“I can relate to the part about wanting to be free all too well. I have severe depression and anxiety along with bipolar disorder, and I never feel in control of my own life, I never feel like I am my own. I always feel worthless and don’t understand how people put up with me, but there’s another quote when Genie says to Al that he ‘is always going to be a prince in Genie’s eyes.’ And to me, I may view myself so low, but to others they still see me through my mess and value every part of me.” — Heather B.

6. “Mrs. Doubtfire”

“‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ will always make me laugh so hard that my stomach hurts. But any movie with Robin Williams is guaranteed to make you live in somebody else’s world instead of your own for a little while.”  — Lyssa C.

7. “The Bird Cage”

“Despite how bad my depression gets, this movie always makes me laugh. It reminds me to accept myself for what I am and to be proud as hell of that.” — Clara B.

8. “Hook”

“When I was growing up, my family used to watch that movie every time it came on, and it stuck with me. It’s my favorite Peter Pan story to date. I’ve always loved the idea of a place I could fly off to and fight pirates and swim with mermaids. Watching him rediscover his inner child while I was growing up has helped me keep mine thriving.” — Alex H.

“Everything about his character in this movie was raw and emotional. There is such a magnificence and wonder that erupts when he discovers he is indeed Peter Pan. That feeling of being trapped as an adult and wanting that rush and excitement of being a kid again (before depression) makes me happy in ways I thought were long gone.” — Jennifer S.

“One scene at the very end keeps me going…

Wendy: So your adventures are over..
Peter: Oh no, to live — to live will be an awfully big adventure.” — Christopher G.

9. “The Fisher King”

“‘The Fisher King’ really resonated with me. The mistakes we make, the price that others sometimes pay for them, but the possibility of finding redemption in each other. It’s the first film I can remember where the mentally ill character was not a parody or a caricature.” — Shaun S.

“‘The Fisher King’ explored the realities of the mentally ill with humor, drama and deep compassion. I can think of no other movie that explores the interactions and the fine lines between ‘normal’ and ‘madness’ with more humanity. Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges embody the ongoing struggles of a society fractured by a need to improve understanding. The grace and message of this movie has been sadly overlooked, but it gave me hope that the world can change its broken attitudes.” — Kay W.

10. “Jack”

“Jack, because though he faced difficulties on an emotional level, he finds the right support system, helping him live a fuller happier life. Just like those of us who go through dark times.” — Chris S.

11. “Night at the Museum”

“‘Night at the Museum’ because he knew that even though he was stuck during the day (like a depressive episode where you can’t move), he knew that it wouldn’t always be that way.” — Mikayla M.

12. “August Rush”

“It is one of the only movies where he didn’t pretend, and you could tell he wasn’t. This movie made me realize, even the greatest struggled.” — Devin H.

13. “Awakenings”

“I can’t really explain why, but I feel he was most like himself in that movie. He portrayed a lonely man with no real connection to anyone, but he put his heart in his work and his success brought him joy. In the end, he was lighter and more free with a better ability to connect to people other than his patients. He was trying so hard to be a part of something. That’s what I want for myself.” — Noreen A.

14. “The Angriest Man In Brooklyn”

“‘The Angriest Man In Brooklyn’ was possibly the most unlikely of his films to give me hope during depression… but it really did. His character was a man who was constantly angry at the whole world, and he was told by a doctor that he was dying. That same doctor follows him to try to convince him to get treatment and helps him to reconnect with the family he had alienated. It gives me hope that there are strangers out there who care that much and that no matter the reason you lost touch, you can reconnect with friends and family who have drifted away.” — Jenny B.

I also wanted to include a few answers from our community members who said they couldn’t pick just one film. Their words seemed too powerful not to share:

“I want to say only one of his movies affected me. I want to say one truly stands out… but that isn’t the case. He was my role model, my icon. From my lack of a fatherly figure in my life, he was the one I looked up to. My first chapter book I read was ‘Flubber,’ which he starred in. I’ve seen all his movies multiple times, I have connected with each of them, his passing affected me tremendously. He even met my dying nephew in a San Francisco children’s hospital. He connected to my family, I remember placing my feet in his prints at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. I saw all his video-taped beginning comedy, I watched this man through his whole career. So no, it wasn’t just one film or one moment of this man that I connected with, it was him entirely. He impacted my life in such a way that any star hopes to reach with his fans. I’m not some starstruck fan though; he inspired me in my life. When he died, a part of me went with him. So in essence, all his films were relatable for me.” — Kristina C.

“At first, I wanted to follow the rules and give you one answer. Then I realized that was an impossible task for me. I grew up watching his films, and as an actor myself, I admired his fearlessness, his authenticity, his energy, his creative genius. We can mask our mental illnesses by acting, but being an actor requires you to take off your masks. Any actor worth their salt will tell you that creating a character is a cathartic experience; you have to bring truth to your roles if you want to connect with your audience and that’s what Robin did best… We share an anniversary; I woke up alive… he didn’t. I don’t ever envision an August 11th without commemorating the day with a Robin Williams movie marathon. He shows me not that my bipolar disorder will be my death sentence, but that despite the manic depression, I can use my talents and live a full life. ‘What will your verse be?'” — Leah T.

“No one film, but a characteristic of all his roles. He always was able to truly show sadness. Seeing glimpses of what I perceived as true sadness made me realize it’s normal to feel sad and alone. It also made me feel that it’s acceptable to show raw emotion, which has helped me in life as well as therapy.” — Rebecca S.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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When Robin Williams Died, I Realized the Greatest Lie Depression Had Told Me

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As someone struggling with depression, there are many lies I tell myself to get through each day. I tell myself I believe things will get better. I tell myself I believe life is worth living. I tell myself I believe someday I will be happy. All these lies I tell myself in the hope they will eventually ring true and I will come to believe them. But there are some lies I tell myself without even being aware, and it wasn’t until the suicide of Robin Williams that I discovered I had been telling myself the greatest lie of all.

When I learned Robin Williams had died by suicide, I was devastated. Not because I knew him personally or because of some mistaken sense of starstruck familiarity. I knew I would never have to carry the burden of grief his close friends and family would bear. His sudden absence would not alter the course of my daily routine and I would not mourn the missed intimate conversations we would have otherwise engaged in. The truth is, I was devastated because he was 63.

Robin Williams was 63 when he killed himself. After all that he had accomplished, all that he had challenged, survived, learned and conquered, it appeared to me that he couldn’t move beyond the ghosts that tortured him. Success, no matter how you measure it — whether by money, fame, accomplishments or family — none of it seemed enough to chase away the nightmares that doggedly pursued him throughout his life. It seems he never discovered the secret to conquering his inner demons so they would remain in the dark and let him live unencumbered. I was devastated because if Robin Williams, with all his age and experience, could not beat the odds, what possible chance did I have?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, in the fragile, sheltered box of light I keep tucked beneath the oppressive darkness that is my depression, I realized I had been falsely clinging to the desperate notion that some day, perhaps with the help of medication, meditation, self-awareness and therapy, I would eventually get a handle on my own demons and, once in control, I would sweep them aside to live the rest of my life in a fiercely negotiated peace. I wasn’t so naive as to believe I could erase my depression completely, but I would build a cell strong enough to keep it bound, cornered, out of sight and literally out of mind. Once I had paid my dues and learned my lessons, my life would be mine to live as I pleased.

This was the greatest lie I told myself about depression. I had believed that some day I would find a permanent solution to my plight, but I realize now that no fortification can bar its return and hold it at bay while I live the idyllic life I deeply desire. There will always be a need to maintain vigilance, like a keeper at the gate. I can build a cell but from time to time, but when it is least expected or I am least prepared, the despair inside me will leach through the cracks and force me to drive it back or lose myself forever. Just as I imagine it had done with Robin Williams.

It is not my intention to suppose what had been going through his mind in his final days or to make assumptions regarding the inner workings of his life. I have no privilege to information beyond what was presented in the media and I will never claim to personally know who he was or understand his unique struggles. But I know depression and I find myself thinking about him almost every day. I can’t help but imagine his loneliness and the heavy heartbreak which likely traced his every step. Whether in fact or only in my mind, I can’t help but feel connected as only someone who has experienced the hopelessness of despair can, and at the same time, I thank him. He will never know the impact he has had on my life but I like to think if he did, it would bring him some peace to know he had helped someone — he helped me. He opened my eyes to the lie I was harboring and gave me a chance to find a new truth for myself.

I try to lie less and less these days. I still tell myself what I need to in order to survive, but I also look for reasons to prove myself wrong when I can. I try harder to recognize the things that make my life worth living and I pursue the things that will make me happy. I don’t always catch them but sometimes, just the chase is enough. Most of all, I look forward to the day I turn 64 and I can raise a glass to Mr. Williams, sharing with him my gratitude, as I blow out the candles on my cake.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via wikimedia commons.

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Robin Williams Movie Quotes That Have Helped People With Depression

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This Friday August 11 is the third anniversary of Robin Williams’ death. For fans and people who may be struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts or loss, anniversaries like this can be really tough

For many, Williams consistently shared messages of hope, especially in his movies. As a tribute to his memory, we asked our mental health community to share movie quotes that have helped them through depression. Williams may not have written these lines himself, but his delivery of them always appeared genuinely heartfelt. Though he is no longer with us, his memory lives on, and the impact he had on the world will stay with us always.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” — John Keating, “Dead Poets Society”

robin williams
Screenshot via UsSkyPic YouTube channel

“It reminds me what I stay alive for. Art was one of the things that got me through it when nothing else was. Movies, art, poetry. They’re all important and I think it truly is one of the reasons we stay alive.” — Becky R.

2. “To live will be an awfully big adventure!” — Peter Banning/Peter Pan, “Hook”

peter pan robin williams
Screenshot via YouTube movies

“This was his last line in the movie ‘Hook,’ which I grew up watching, and still do watch it regularly. I got it tattooed on my shoulder years ago, before he passed. Robin Williams has always reminded me of my dad, so I guess that’s why I’ve had an extra love for Williams. I think the quote speaks for itself.” — Morticia A.

3. “It’s not about understanding. It’s about not giving up.” — Chris Nielsen, “What Dreams May Come”

robin williams
Screenshot via YouTube Movies

“I, like most humans, want to have it all figured out. I want my dreams to become plans with little to no obstacles, and that just isn’t the reality of life. This is a reminder that although it may be hectic, I am not meant to understand life, but to enjoy it and live it.” — Jazmyn K.

4. “I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be.” — Andrew, “Bicentennial Man”

andrew bicentennial man
Screenshot via YouTube Movies

“It reminds me that although I battle depression and suicidal thoughts, it must be for a reason. Even if I don’t quite know what that reason is yet, it’s what keeps me going and helps me get through my worst days, almost like a beacon of hope amidst darkness and despair.” — Katy F.

5. “But oh, to be free!” — Genie, “Aladdin”

genie aladdin
Screenshot via Movieclips Coming Soon YouTube channel

“I feel chained and trapped by my illness, it feels like it’s been 10,000 years…” — Shannon D.

6. “But if there’s love, dear… those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you poppet, you’re going to be alright.” — “Mrs. Doubtfire”

Mrs. Doubtfire
Screenshot via YouTube Movies

“Whenever I watch ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ and hear this line at the end, something about the way it’s said truly resonates with me. It does give me hope things will get get better, no matter what mental hardship I’m going through.” — Rachel S.

7. “It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.” — Sean Maguire, “Good Will Hunting”

good will hunting
Screenshot via YouTube Movies

“The whole movie but these specific lines [especially].” — Tania B.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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To the One Who Saw Past the Mask That Hides My Depression

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I walk in the room with a smile on my face.

The mask I wear so well is indistinguishable from my very being.

It has become a part of me and I dare you to try taking it off.

I sit down in the seat across from you, still smiling as I tell you about my hurts and painful happenings.

It’s easy for me, this pretending. I’m used to it, you see.

The mask fits me comfortably and I barely even notice it’s there anymore.

But you see past the mask.

Perhaps something gave it away.

Something in my eyes or the way I exhaled too deeply after that last sentence.

I quickly smile once again, trying to cover up anything that may have shown.

You pretend not to notice and I’m thankful.

My mask protects me, keeps me safe and in control.

My mask has become my worst enemy and my best friend.

But as you speak words of empathy and compassion, I can feel the edges of my mask loosening, curling up ever so slightly.

Could it be, that you have seen beyond the mask? Even after I have masterfully kept it under wraps?

The glimmer in your eye and the patient silence is deafening.

You wait, with kindness and understanding, you wait.

I can feel the mask start to itch.

I suddenly feel trapped yet exposed.

I long to tear off the mask that is holding me captive.

I long for someone to see me for who I really am.

And still, you wait, and you watch with warm eyes.

Meeting my gaze only to ask, “How are you feeling?” which fees like a thousand questions wrapped into one.

  

And with this one question, you beckon me into the light.

With your patient waiting, you silence the voices telling me to hide.

With your smile, you remind me I am not too much, but more than enough.

With your peaceful demeanor you tear down my walls, brick by brick, session by session, never rushing or criticizing in the process.

My recurring head nods and long silences in between discussions are never met with judgment, but with acceptance.

And moment by moment, we are conquering this mask together. Slowly untying that which has left me blinded for years.

With each passing moment I am safer and yet more exposed than I have ever been before.

My mask will not go away so easily.

It is a long process that is only just beginning.

It has taken years to build up and will take years to undo.

And yet we continue together, to conquer that which challenges me every day.

And so as I sit here, stiff, smiling, hiding all that is begging to be released. I thank you.

Thank you to the one who saw past my mask — and decided I was still worth fighting for.

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When Depression Becomes 'Comfortable'

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Thinking of the word “comfort” often brings a sense of peace. It makes me feel at home. I don’t like to leave the moments when I feel comforted. Does anyone? There are many things that bring me comfort, such as writing and talking with loved ones. There are many people who bring me comfort such as my husband, my family and my closest friends. Who or what brings you comfort?

Comfort is a very positive aspect of living. It also brings a lot of other feelings along with it, such as feeling protected or loved. I put comfort, protection and love all in the same category. However, have you ever been mislead by comfort? I have, and it took me quite awhile to realize it. Side note: this post isn’t about the cliche of stepping out of your comfort zone — I am talking about a different aspect to comfort.

For me, when depression gets low and has been around for some time, it starts to feel like home. I’m not saying this just because most crying spells usually happen at home, but because depression began to bring me comfort. It brought comfort I thought I wanted and needed. I remember waking up mornings and the first thing I thought of was when I would be able to come back home and be alone. I looked forward to being alone because I could cry as much as I wanted. I also then began to look forward to crying. Crying spells began to feel so familiar that it gave me anxiety when I wasn’t crying. If you’re reading this and you don’t have depression, this may sound confusing, weird or pathetic… I get it. Now that I am not in that kind of place anymore, it seems confusing to me too. However, I wanted to bring up this confusing dilemma because it was once my reality. I’m sure it has been someone else’s reality too.

This depressive comfort is almost the opposite of anxiety because there is nothing comforting for me about anxiety (besides when it’s not present). I’m not sure if I could ever even have misleading comfort from anxiety because of all the physical symptoms it brings along with it. The hyperventilating, sweating, shaking, etc. is like a mini hell for me. Depression, not so much.

When I’m feeling depressed, I love to sleep. It’s one of my favorite things. I’m not saying I love to take naps, because I do and so do a lot of other people. What I’m talking about is sleeping my days away, so I didn’t have to feel or think. I spent days waking up going to work and then coming back home to sleep until I went to work the next day. It was like taking never-ending naps… I was spending the majority of my time in sweats. It felt beautiful! Days started to turn into weeks living this way. I enjoyed living this way because I felt comforted by my bed, protected from my negative thoughts by sleeping. I thought this was the perfect solution to not feel so crummy anymore.

I didn’t start to realize I was being mislead until I started to vocalize it to my husband and to my therapist. I told them I felt at home when I was feeling depressed. I was fine sleeping the majority of my time. I felt the best when I was crying. If you haven’t figured it out by now, these are all major red flags. The only way I realized this was talking to someone else about how I was truly feeling and thinking. This was a reality check for me. A very necessary one.

Getting out of this depressive comfort wasn’t easy because it felt like I was taking away a positive from my life. I felt like I was taking away that comfort, love and protection. Who would ever want to willingly do that? However, this comfort, love and protection I was receiving did not have good intentions. It didn’t have my best interest in mind… even though it was my mind! Comfort, love and protection are only a positive if it is coming from a source with good intentions. So make sure the comfort you are getting is comfort you actually need. You may want that misleading comfort, but in the long run it will just keep tearing you down!

Please try to recognize when you’re being mislead by depressive comfort. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts aloud because once you speak them, it takes away power from those thoughts!

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On the Days I'm Not Emotionally Ready to Fake a Smile

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When some people say, “I’m not feeling well,” most tend to think it’s a physical sickness. Like a cold or a headache.

Just like the times when I wake up in the morning and find it hard to get out of bed because I need to battle my anxiety and depression first.

When it’s almost 7 a.m. and my class is about to start in five minutes and I’m still stuck in my bed, I’ll text my friends to let them know I can’t make it to school. I say I’m not feeling well. They say, “Is it the stomach thing again?”

Every time I’m not feeling well, they tend to think it’s my stomach problem that’s keeping me from going to school. But sometimes not feeling well goes beyond just the physical sickness. Sometimes not feeling well means I’m not emotionally well. I’m still in the constant battle with my self and I’m not emotionally ready to go to school.

Not feeling well may also mean I can’t meet you today because I’m not emotionally ready to fake a smile.

But not feeling well doesn’t just mean I need medication — I just need a hug or maybe just a comforting hand. So every time I saying I’m not feeling well, I hope someone would just look beyond the physical pain and say, “It’s OK if you can’t make it today, just know that we’re here for you.”

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