Did this Robin Williams tribute go too far?


AS fans around the world began to grieve Robin Williams’s death, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — best known, in many circles, as the people behind the Oscars — sent out an image (above) that some considered close to crossing the line.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said that the “Genie, you’re free” image was not an ideal memorial for Robin Williams.

“If it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it,” Moutier said when asked if the image violated “public health standards for how we talk about suicide.” “Suicide should never be presented as an option. That’s a formula for potential contagion.”

More than 270,000 people have shared the tweet, which means that, per the analytics site Topsy, as many as 69 million people have seen it.

The problem? It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide.

Moutier was referring to a well-documented phenomenon, better-known as “copycat suicide,” in which media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way. Adolescents are most at risk of suicide contagion; in recent years, groups like AFSP have also become particularly attentive to the role the Internet plays in romanticizing notorious or high-profile deaths, something it has long asked both the news and entertainment industries to avoid.

The starry sky from Disney’s Aladdin, and the written implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option, presents suicide in too celebratory a light, Moutier said.

Moutier has some advice for organizations and individuals talking about Williams’s death online: Be sure to acknowledge that suicide has underlying issues — and those issues can be addressed. The focus, she adds, should be on his incredible life. It certainly shouldn’t celebrate or glorify how he died.


37 thoughts on “Did this Robin Williams tribute go too far?

  1. I think it could be a problem but I don’t believe it was intentional.

    After reading about Robin Williams I then started reading the suicide notes of famous people to get a look into what was running through their minds when they decided to end it all. What struck me was how trivial many of the reasons were but obviously incredibly important to them at the time. Many had abused drugs, lived a life without structure, placed much importance on money and their own status in other people’s eyes. They had a lack of respect of their own worth and the gift of life. A little bit self obsessed.

    I was saddened by their lack of hope and faith. I understand many people have a chemical imbalance and genuinely can’t control their emotions i.e. schizophrenia – but I think there is a large proportion that have a sick soul and need spiritual help rather than pharmaceutical, monetary or superficial love.


    • The suggestion that you can “pray away” mental illness surely must be far more damaging than the the perhaps misguided tribute from the Academy.


      • Only for someone who is clueless as to the reality of tormenting spirits.

        Actually, my ‘mental’ issues were resolved/healed in combination of professional treatment (Marriage Counsellor and Psychologist) and a lot of prayer for deliverance from the demonic. On the professional side, it was great to have someone to talk to, but for me, it definitely was the prayer that healed me and most importantly, my relationship with Jesus. The song, ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’ is so true. And not only is Jesus the best Friend you could ever hope to have, but He’s also the greatest Healer.


      • “Only for someone who is clueless as to the reality of tormenting spirits.”

        Ahh so a normal person. Ok then.

        Besides considering that Christians are planning to picket Robin Williams funeral – a completely disgusting act – surely this is a topic you should have the good grace to butt out of.

        After all you’re a Christian right ?


      • Bubba, you got it so wrong. As my wife wrote today” it is very dangerous and ignorant to speak to mental illness as possession – bottom line, he was a gifted man with a beautiful but troubled heart that could not see his way through the things that tormented him – end of story …


      • I was just listening to Michael Guglielmucci’s ‘HEALER’ song. Love it! It’s so anointed and true, irrespective of who’s singing it. Got me wondering about Michael though. Hope he is doing fine now. Came across Seth’s blog below about this song and its singer, and boy, is Seth’s words ever powerful. Thank you Seth….keep preaching brother.



      • What Christians are picketing Robin’s funeral…and why? You’re not talking about the Westbro Church are you?

        And Dawn is spot-on! I couldn’t agree more.


      • Hey Monica

        Yeah I think that’s them – you Christians disgust me picketing the funeral of Robin Williams is a terrible thing to do. You should hang your head in shame.


      • Hey Bryan,

        Ok I got “it” wrong thanks for clearly establishing that. I’d really appreciate it though if you could clarify for me what “it” is.

        AS to the Christian thing well a Christian group is planning to picket William’s funeral. Now Monica recently established that the actions of any members of a religious group apply to all members of that group. So ALL Christians have to be condemned for the actions of this one small group.

        Isn’t that right Monica? After all you’re happy enough to apply that kind of thinking to Muslims.


      • Bubba, not everyone who cries “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of Heaven.

        Not all who call themselves Christian really are at heart.


      • Hey Bryan

        Will do I’ll think “it” though – whatever “it” happens to be this time.

        I think “it” might just be a very nice, but confused Christian blogger who’s got his wires crossed somewhere along the way…….


      • Hey Strewth,

        Yep I’d imagine that’s the case. I’m sure that also applies to a lot of other groups.

        Problem is it also applies to Scotsmen doesn’t it ?


      • Hey Bry,

        Well Duh. Suggesting that Westrbo represents all of Christianity makes about as much sense as suggesting all “Aussie Muslim men hate Aussie women.”

        And, no offence, unless you have the memory of a goldfish it should have been fairly obvious, fairly quickly that that’s the point I was trying to make to Monica.


      • Hey Bryan,

        Really I would have thought that the situations are exactly the same.
        Both are taking the views of a small group and apply those views universally. It would be use of an analogy rather than a straw-man. AND if you did understand the point I was trying to make then for the life of me have no idea why you were earlier telling me I got it so wrong.


      • You got it wrong about Westboro. It doesn’t represent Christianity.

        When the organization Planting Peace – which owns the Equality House located across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas – learned of the WBC’s plan, they put one of their own into action to overshadow the hateful message with one of love, reports the Huffington Post.

        Planting Peace has begun a fundraising effort in Williams’s honor benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – a cause the iconic actor supported passionately during his life.

        A statement from Planting Peace on the Crowdrise page for the campaign reads:

        Our neighbors at the Westboro Baptist Church have announced their intention to protest the funeral of Robin Williams. In keeping with our philosophy of addressing acts of hate and intolerance with compassion and love, we are inviting the public to show their respect and support of a man who spent his life making others smile, who was always there for others in their time of need, and who supported the greater good through works of service and charity. Please join Planting Peace in counteracting the WBC’s message of hate through a fundraising event benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a cause Mr. Williams passionately and publicly supported.


      • Hey Bryan,
        “…… Westboro. It doesn’t represent Christianity.”

        Yes that would be the point. If it was an accurate representation of all of Christianity then my analogy wouldn’t work. See my comment at 09:49 It’s the one that starts “Well Duh.”


      • Hey Bryan,

        Yeah I get your point such as it is. Basically you’re agreeing with me it’s just you are having difficulty expressing it.


      • Hey Mon,

        I’m old enough to remember when Australia was going to be over-run by “Wogs”. Or when the Vietnamese refugees were the problem. Cabramatta was really Vietnamatta where nobody spoke English and pretty soon white people wouldn’t be welcome anywhere in Sydney.

        The racists eijits propounding such theories were wrong then and I can’t really see why they’d be right now.

        So a small number of Muslims are unpleasant people, have some fairly unpleasant thoughts and use their faith in a why which supports those unpleasant views.

        And it seems that, according to you, that should then apply to all Muslims.

        As my little example above shows there are some pretty unpleasant Christians who have some fairly unpleasant thoughts and use their faith in a way which supports those unpleasant views.

        But is each and every Christian the same as the Westboro baptists ? The idea is absurd, even Bryan can twig to it given enough time.

        So why one earth should I believe that each and every Muslim is the same as the few bad examples you’re throwing up?


    • Hey Bubba,

      Of course you are correct! I’d be an idiot to generalize like that. But be that as it may, 99.9% of the Muslim men I have had the misfortune to interact with (Dom is the only exception), have been arseholes, including the Muslim guy I’d only just met when I was in London, who asked me to marry him just so he could get into Australia. So naturally, I have to try real hard not to be convinced that they are all………!

      Yeah, of course not all of them are like that. My son’s best mate is a Muslim. And thank God I’m too old to be called “sharmuta” now. 😆


  2. I remember a scene from that Mother Theresa movie where she was walking through a large city (possibly New York) and even though she had come from the slums of India, she saw sadness and poverty of spirit everywhere. She saw through the facade and that is what I believe many suicidal people need.


  3. I’m just making stuff up here so I could be completely wrong BUT at the end of the day suicide is an option.

    MAYBE we should be emphasising that it just isn’t a very good option.


    • Right Bubba. But people in such despair are not usually logical, but centred in their feelings. The can’t consider the selfishness of their action, the pain they leave behind for others.

      Granted there are those who calmly and rationally weigh everything up and decide that this is the best outcome for all concerned.

      We can’t pass judgement, God still loves the suffering.


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