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Media portrayal of Robin Williams’ suicide proves stigma remains

While the majority of the media was mourning the loss of Robin Williams and lauding his iconic showbiz career, it appears Fox News and Rush Limbaugh formed different opinions of his suicide as it relates to depression.

This begs the question: Does the media truly get it when it comes to depression and its relationship with suicide?

This point can be best exemplified after Fox Newscaster Shepard Smith chose insensitive words to depict Williams’ decision to take his life.

The Shep’ incident happened suddenly and without warning on his afternoon television slot. As Smith was attempting to bring meaning to the tragedy, he abruptly used the phrase “such a coward” to surmise the reasoning behind Williams' actions. The next day Shepard perfunctorily apologized for his loose use of words when talking about Williams three kids he left behind:

"It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?” Smith said. “You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known.”

“And yet,” Smith continued, “something inside you is so horrible — or you’re such a coward, or whatever the reason — that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.”

And then it was the king of controversy, Rush Limbaugh, who took the opportunity to exploit Williams' suicide to seemingly score some political points against the far left. Limbaugh made a meandering speech where he read from a local Fox story speculating on why Williams committed suicide, and then oddly connected that to a leftist point of view.

He walked these comments back on Wednesday, stating that he doesn’t know the reasons for Williams’ suicide and accused the media of misconstruing his words.

Caron Helfner, a clinical director at Inspirations for Youth teen rehab has witnessed her fair share of people in recovery, who are weighed down by depression and suicidal thoughts.

“In society, sadly, there is still a stigma associated with depression and suicide which is communicated front and center by the media,” said Helfner. “The fact of the matter is that suicide is not a cowardly act or a political point of view. It is a disease and each case should be analyzed individually rather than generalized.”

While Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are only a microcosm of the medium, there is still many that share the same opinion on depression and suicide. The issue is like the "elephant in the room." While there are some that may in fact view Robin Williams' suicide as a cowardly act, they are reticent to talk about it due to disrespect.

"Until we as a nation have a healthy dialogue on depression and suicide, we will remain in the dark ages regarding our understanding of what precipitates it and what we can do to try and prevent it," Heffner added.