Comedic legend, Robin Williams’ recent death shook not only shook President Obama and Hollywood, but regular folks like me who have a deep appreciation of his work. Early reports hinted at suicide as the cause of death noting that his body was round and citing Williams’ history of drug use and reports he was recently treated for depression. Police have since confirmed his suicide, but now additional details about his actions that caused his death have been released. TMI?
According to a press conference Williams’ preliminary cause of death was “asphyxia due to hanging.” Lt. Keith Boyd of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office told the media that Williams was found in his Tiburon, Calif., home at around 11:45 a.m. by his personal assistant, who became concerned when the actor failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door. Boyd went into even more explicit detail about the position Williams was found in, other wound he suffered, and more.
During and after the conference stunned viewers and fans asked why so many graphic details had been released, especially after it was already noted that the entertainer had taken his life.
This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen every last detail exposed when an entertainer died. Police and reporters elaborate the details of moments leading up to the deaths of fallen stars (even ones whose cause of death were not confirmed as suicide) like Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. In each case many unfavorable and troubling facts were released in the days following the deaths. All in the middle of some family and fans grieving, others focused on remembering the joy the entertainers brought to the world and even others struggling to understand why and how these deaths happened. In an information age at a moment where people have an insatiable desire for even the most minute details, is discussing the specific details of how someone died going too far?
USA Today spoke with The Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkins who noted, “The coroner’s office has an obligation to report what they know. Journalists don’t have the obligation to report that information over and over again in that level of detail.” However, the paper said, “he cautioned that doesn’t mean the details are never crucial. Context is key.”
“In Michael Jackson’s case, there was great disagreement over what occurred and how it occurred,” Tompkins said. “Then the details of his death become much more important to understand exactly what happened.”
In the days following Williams’ passing, some have said that even the detail that he committed suicide shouldn’t have been released.
Where should the line be drawn here?
Suicide is painful for survivors to endure and even talk about. No one knows what people are thinking and feeling when they decide to take their lives, we can only assume that they just want it to be over. At the time of his death, Robin was being treated for depression, but the firm grip of the crippling disease seemed to be stronger than he could handle. It’s heartbreaking to read those details about him, and many like him who take their lives.
In the wake of this passing, how should we talk about this? Should we at all? Tell us what you think.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Check Out This Gallery Of Robin Williams’ Best Impressions: