Let’s be clear. Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about, not in the privacy of our own homes and certainly not in public.
We saw that on Monday in the aftermath of Robin Williams’ death when, in the shock of the moment, both Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and “Different Strokes” actor Todd Bridges made huge missteps that they both now regret.
They inferred that Williams was cowardly and selfish for taking his own life.
During Fox’s coverage, while talking about Williams’ family and daughter, Zelda, Smith appeared to be angry when he referred to her as “one of the children he so loved, one of the children grieving tonight. Because their father killed himself in a fit of depression.
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“It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? 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, 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.”
Bridges shared his thoughts on Twitter, just minutes after Williams’ death was reported.
“It is a very selfish act you're not thinking about your family your friends or your fans.”
“much better way get help or if you know someone like that get them help even if it means getting them locked up in a psychiatric hospital”
“Rest in peace Robin Williams I hope you found what you were looking for”
“You don't think that my life has been hell and I've had so many ups and downs now. If I did that what am i showing my children”
“That when it gets tough that's the way out No you gotta buckle down ask God to help you. That's when prayer really comes into effect”
Bridges also tweeted that people suffering in America from depression tend to be “written off as crazy people. I don't care if you guys don't like what I have to say but it's the truth america's not doing enough to help people with depression.”
Both men were quickly criticized on social media for their choice of words.
Bridges took his tweets down and wrote an apology, explaining that he recently lost a friend to suicide and is still dealing with those emotions.
“I would like to apologize for the terrible timing of comments that I made in reference to the untimely death of Robin Williams,” he tweeted.
“My best friend committed suicide a few months ago, and I was devastated to discover that he did not solicit my help.
“I am sure that my attitude toward Williams' death was a delayed reaction of my best friend's death.”
Smith also apologized for and clarified his comments to Mediaite, saying that he was just “wondering aloud what could have made this man want to end it all.
“And it reminds us that we all have responsibility as friends and neighbors to help take responsibility to prevent this from happening ...
“But no matter how you process it: Look at what this family is going through. I would never presume to know anything about his private life. And if any of his family members and friends were to have seen me use the word ‘coward,’ I would be horrified. I would just to apologize to the end of the earth to anyone who might think that I meant to openly call him a coward.
“To the core of my being, I regret it. It just came out of my mouth. And I’m so sorry. And to anyone and their families who see that, I am sorry.”