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Robin Williams' death by suicide made me very sad, but it didn't surprise me.

When I'd heard that the gifted-but-tortured actor had returned to drug rehab on July 1 after so many years, I felt a surge of compassion mixed with dread.

Like many of his fans, I'd read about his emotional struggles.

He's losing the battle with himself, and his own worst torturer.

Williams' torture was an addiction to drugs and whatever pain he tried to salve with them, and his re-admission told me that the monkey had taken up residence once again on his broad shoulders.

I thought of the afternoon almost a decade ago when I'd stood near him for about 20 or 30 minutes as we each watched our kids playing on different structures of the same playground in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

I wanted to tell him then how much I'd enjoyed his work over the years, but I wanted to respect his privacy more, because I guessed how much it would mean to have some measure of it as he spent some time in public as a parent, rather than an actor.

So I said nothing, and instead just appreciated the look of joy on his face as he watched his little one play – no script or improv act needed to produce his smile.

Now that the real-life version of that smile is gone forever, the thing for all his fans to do now is extend compassion and comfort to his family and friends close enough to be devastated by an act of such hopelessness and self-hate.

All energy that might be wasted on blame or confusion should be directed instead toward awareness and treatment of a low-grade but persistent mental illness called depression.

It was one that in the end even such a mad-cap genius as the man who created Mork from Ork couldn't beat.

Williams' hanging of himself -- a beloved comic and thoughtful actor who'd touched millions of fans in such a positive way with his life's work -- is almost inconceivable to imagine.

In a documentary I once watched on the life of mega-successful Motown vocalist Marvin Gaye (another sensitive artist who died too young after being plagued by depression throughout his adult life) someone said:

"How can you not know that you're beautiful?"

An inconceivable thing, perhaps -- except to those who've been gripped by the suicidal thoughts that all-too-often accompany depression in its most severe form.

Those who have can understand the battle that Williams' lost with the voices in his head and the pain in his heart.

When the soundtrack in your brain keeps repeating that loved ones would be better off with you edited out of the picture, rather than continue to suffer by your actions, self-forgiveness is hard to come by.

And it's only in forgiveness that healing comes and the voices stop.

Without it, the painful last scene occurs not from selfishness as much as a desire to stop the torment that comes with thinking you're a terrible person, or simply a failure as a human being.

It will be sad if Williams' last act doesn't spur more depressed people to seek treatment -- and even more healthy people to offer support and assistance to those who need it.

For now we all know that even someone who at times projected an almost angelic innocence, and who often seemed to get his comedy straight from the divine – Who else could write such great material? -- can lose his struggle with a demon.

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