Henry Rollins Blasts Robin Williams for What He Did to His Children

Rant 45

henry rollinsLast week Gene Simmons of KISS apologized after making some harsh statements about depression and suicide -- two weeks before Robin Williams' death. They were insensitive, essentially saying to those suffering from depression that the world is harsh and to deal with it or just kill yourself. After Williams' passing, Simmons apologized for what he said, hopefully realizing that those facing depression need support to get help and do not deserve to be harshly criticized. Sadly, another celebrity rock star has made some new comments on depression, this time directly attacking Robin Williams.

Henry Rollins slammed Williams for what he did to his children when he ended his life. He also added that he no longer takes anything Williams did seriously.

Rollins' post titled "Fuck Suicide" is the latest installment in his column for LA Weekly. I agree with the title -- fuck suicide, indeed. And cancer. And war. And all the terrible things that happen in this world. Fuck it all. I wish it didn't exist. I also appreciate all of what Rollins writes at the start of his article. He praises Williams' work, calls him a good man. And then he says what so many are thinking, the unpopular critique. In true Rollins style. He writes that he "cannot understand how any parent could kill themselves."

As a parent, I (somewhat) understand what he's trying to say -- we need to be there for our children. But Rollins is forgetting the complexities of depression. He wrote:

How in the hell could you possibly do that to your children? I don’t care how well adjusted your kid might be — choosing to kill yourself, rather than to be there for that child, is every shade of awful, traumatic and confusing. I think as soon as you have children, you waive your right to take your own life. No matter what mistakes you make in life, it should be your utmost goal not to traumatize your kids. So, you don’t kill yourself. 

Don't kill yourself. I wish it was that simple for those suffering. But it's not that simple. Williams' children are suffering, no doubt, but they don't need this pain on top of it. Rollins continues:

And I get that you can’t understand anyone else’s torment. All that “I feel your pain” stuff is bullshit and disrespectful. You can appreciate it, listen and support someone as best you can, but you can’t understand it. Depression is so personal and so unique to each of us that when you’re in its teeth, you think you invented it. You can understand your own, but that’s it. When you are severely depressed, it can be more isolating than anything else you have ever experienced. In trying to make someone understand, you can only speak in approximation. You are truly on your own.

So he gets it, somewhat. He understands, I think. He talks of a friend's suicide next and then comes down hard:

I get it, but then again, maybe I don’t. When someone negates their existence, they cancel themselves out in my mind. I have many records, books and films featuring people who have taken their own lives, and I regard them all with a bit of disdain. When someone commits this act, he or she is out of my analog world. I know they existed, yet they have nullified their existence because they willfully removed themselves from life. They were real but now they are not.  I no longer take this person seriously. I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them. Their life wasn’t cut short — it was purposely abandoned. It’s hard to feel bad when the person did what they wanted to. It sucks they are gone, of course, but it’s the decision they made. I have to respect it and move on. 

I can't help but think that sounds so heartless. Is he trying some kind of bully tactic to talk people out of suicide? Yes, we have to move on. But I'm not sure it's as simple as saying that a person who committed suicide abandoned their life. Depression is a a griping mental health issue -- many who suffer feel abandonment, they don't want to abandon their life, they feel their life abandoned them. It's complex and as Rollins said, unique to every individual who suffers. He seems angry -- he tends to often. And death does bring out anger, but he also sounds cold. Rollins ends his post by writing: "Almost 40,000 people a year kill themselves in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In my opinion, that is 40,000 people who blew it." I disagree. Our healthcare system blew it. Our lack of compassion blew it. That is 40,000 people who needed help, the kind of help they didn't get. The kind of help we all need to offer those in need. The kind of help that those who suffer shouldn't be afraid to ask for. But they are. Because of how we don't recognize the illness. By callously saying you don't understand those whose commit suicide, that they blew it, is dismissing the illness. Saying you don't take anything the person who died did seriously and how you don't know how they did that to their children is perpetuating the problem. I just can't agree with Rollins' remarks in this case.

What do you think of what Rollins said?


Please call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in case you are worried about yourself, or someone else.

Image via ceedub13/Flickr



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nonmember avatar krystian

He is an idiot.

sterl... sterling21

Depression is a form of brain damage, something happened or somethings are happening that causes the brain to no longer produce rational thought. If you look at the other symptoms of major depression, staying in bed, withdrawing from friends and family, no longer enjoying things you did before, etc...those symptoms are devastating, you become the walking dead and the medical industry does not know enough about major depression to help everyone who suffers. Children no matter what the age already saw the death of there parent, depressive suicide is not a choice but a symptom of the disease that is robbing the person of there life.

nonmember avatar Charlie

As a sufferer of severe depression and father of four children I see both sides of this argument. On one hand I wish I could simply disappear from existence, on the other I know what that would do to my kids. It is a daily struggle that takes tremendous energy to contain. Robin Williams likely fought this battle for many years, and possibly came to a point where he decided people were better off without him and his misery. Suicide is the ultimate act of controlling your own destiny. Depression sufferers typically feel as if they have no other control of their destiny. I feel for the Williams family. I still respect RW as well. He was a kind man. Nice guys always finish last.

TheSi... TheSilence

Who is this guy? I don't recognise him or his name. Obviously he isn't important at all.

Meanwhile I have multiple happy memories if Robin Williams from my childhood.

In the grand scheme of things this guy is nothing, while Robin may be dead he will continue to live on through those many happy memories and a catalogue of genius films!

nonmember avatar FionaFish

In that moment when he commited suicide, he was a man suffering depression, not a father!!!

It's not something he chose, as a father, to do to his kids!

Anyone who says that, has no understanding of depression!

nonmember avatar Julie B.

I believe the point that he is trying to make is the terrible impact it leaves on those of us left behind. I was only 10 years old when my 27 year old brother shot himself before Christmas in 1974. He was like a second father to me,a protector in my household,and he abandoned me. I was left with feelings of worthlessness and pain and loss that is very difficult to describe. It took a long time for me to understand that he tried very hard to seek help, but things were very different then. I still have these nagging feelings of, "If he really loved me, then how could he have left me?" I suppose what I am trying to say is that the author sounds like he has be a casualty of suicide,like me, and we are not left unmarked by the horror of the experience. I pray it never happens to you.

weave... weaveress

When a father walks away from his children; we(society) call him a dead beat, a loser, a sperm donor. So why should we be any less upset with a father who chooses to leave through death? Those children are victims. Suicide is the end of pain for one person and a lifetime of regret and wondering for the survivors. And until your faced with this indescribable pain that only partially heals over time you can't understand being a victim of suicide.

Dolce... Dolcepsle

While I do not condone suicide I also do not agree with Rollins. You cannot speak on someone else's pain and suffering. You cannot tell them what is right for them and their families. Children deal with death. Their parents are murdered, die in accidents and even of natural causes as horrible and drawn out as cancer. They, I am sure, have dealt with his depression for years. For some that, in itself, is a slow painful drawn out death.

Love Rollins, Love Williams, called we are free to speak our minds but we should never shame anyone especially after their passing. Rollins is being careless and likely hurting Williams' kids further

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