Robin Williams' Death

by Paul Sherman

When David and I developed the What Matters?! model, we did so with the intention of eradicating needless suffering in the world. As I contemplate Robin Williams' death, I feel called upon to scream to the world the What Matters?! practice that we call “Reach Out." It could literally save your life. Perhaps Mr. Williams would still be with us today had he been able to force himself to verbalize to another the dark place in which he found himself.

For many of us, it is at our most stressed, lonely and desperate times that we tend to pull inward. We become turtles hiding from the world. We pull the covers over our head and hit the snooze button another time. We ignore the ringing phone even though a well meaning friend or family member's phone number has shown up on the caller i.d. We decline that invitation to dinner, a movie or a bike ride because we just can't muster the energy to engage. We choose to overindulge in the escape of the television clicker or that extra glass of wine.

And, it is precisely when we are feeling at our most disconnected from ourselves and isolated from the world around us that we must summon our inner strength to reach out and be an octopus, not a turtle. We must force ourselves to pick up the phone. Express our vulnerability. Ask for help. Are these radical acts? No. But when we are the grip of the darkest corners of our minds, they can feel absolutely herculean. And, we must take the action to reach out in the absence of the motivation to do so. Seek out the light of others to help us navigate through our own darkness.

And, this is all easier said than done. Especially in the despair of the deepest of depressions. I can only imagine that for Robin Williams to be told to “reach out” would have been the equivalent of telling a wheelchair bound person to walk. That's why Reach Out works both ways. What does that mean?  It means that when we are feeling at our best that WE must actively reach out to others to let them know that we care about them and that they are not alone. Haven't heard from someone for a while? Pick up the phone. Take a “reach out recess.” Who knows what could be haunting them. And, there may be nothing the matter at all with the person you are calling. However, just letting them know you are thinking about them can build their reserve of energy for a time when they may really need it. It doesn't have to be an hour-long conversation. Even a 30 second “just checking in” voicemail will suffice.

Not only did the world lose Robin Williams this week, but my mother-in-law, Pat Garten, passed away as well. We have received so many beautiful messages of sympathy and support. David and I are blessed to have so many people in our lives who care enough to “Reach Out” to support us. We are incredibly grateful for that. In return, I hope that this Robin Williams' death and this essay remind you to “Reach Out” to others when YOU are in need. It could literally save your life.

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