Posted August 12, 2014 11:15 am - Updated August 12, 2014 11:20 am

O'Robin, O'Captain

Robin Williams was a genius and not just with comedy.

He could portray everyone from Teddy Roosevelt, to a dad dressed as a woman, to a renegade English teacher to a super-hyped disc jockey to serving as a voice of a genie.

He was one of the most hilarious people I have ever witnessed. So spontaneously funny. Interviewers usually asked him one question and got out of the way. Script writers left large gaps in scripts to allow Robin to get on a roll. His comedy knew no demographic limitations.

When he took something and ran with it, your insides ached with laughter.

That clownish demeanor masked demons that he kept reined  most of his career.

Here's what Robin Williams' life and death teaches us: Mental illness, particularly depression, is a stealth  psychological cancer and celebritydom, status, talent and brilliance are not immune from its tentacles.

Several folks we see smiling or laughing are hurting inside. Even in a group, they feel alone in that mental prison in which it is so difficult, almost impossible to escape. You don't "just get over" clinical depression. It's not just a bad day or a bad week.

I'm not sure you really cure that kind of depression any more than you cure alcoholism. You combat it, every day and every week. You combat it with grace, compassion, community and understanding — at least as much as we can ever understand how the individual mind works.

It's nothing new. I'm convinced several Biblical heroes also suffered some form of depression, most notably King David, Peter and Paul. In fact, the number of people in the Bible who didn't suffer from depression would form a short list.

Every disease needs a face. And maybe the life and the humor of Robin Williams, who brought so many smiles to so many, is the face our society needs  of that destructive disease our society needs —  as depression and mental illness has sudden surfaced in so many in our families, our friends and our celebrities.

Maybe the life of Robin Williams will lead to greater cooperation, understanding and pro-active grace among individuals, organizations, religious groups  and institutiions and businesses to join in the combat, which requires more than taking two pills and feeling better in the morning.

Here's what Robin Willliams taught us: "Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) — and make a lot of people laugh in the process.