Henry Rollins has vowed to learn from the backlash he caused by saying he couldn’t feel bad for Robin Williams, who committed suicide while suffering severe depression.
The former Black Flag frontman discussed the tragedy in his LA Weekly column, saying: “How in the hell could you possibly do that to your children? When someone negates their existence I no longer take this person seriously.”
He later apologised, admitting he’d received many angry responses, saying: “I am deeply sorry down to my marrow.”
Now he writes in a follow-up LA Weekly piece: “I cannot defend the views I expressed – I think that would be taking an easy out. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be taught a thing or two. I promise that I will dig in and educate myself on this and do my best to evolve.”
Rollins touches on his own battles with depression, saying: “This state has made me have to do things in a certain way to remain operational. There have been some truly awful stretches, as I am sure there have been for anyone who deals with depression, that have at times rendered me almost paralytic.
“Hours pass and I slow-cook on a cold spit. I have likened it to being a peach in a can of syrup yet fully conscious. In an attempt to keep moving along, I must stay in the immediate present tense, acutely aware of everything happening, like driving a car on a highway. If I conclude that I am not citizen grade, I do my best to avoid people so I do not act unpleasantly. No one deserves it. This has kept me in hotel rooms, my kitchen and the corners of gyms. When I have a show that night, it’s minute-to-minute.”
But he says he’s never suffered severe depression, and for that reason he’s never been able to understand it. “The power of severe depression was brought up quite a bit in the letters I received. Your anger toward me on this, believe me, I got it.”
The singer, actor and public speaker continues: “I serve. That is what I do. It is, to me, the most fortunate position to be in. I have an audience. Each member of this audience is better than I am. Braver and more real than I see myself. The only thing I fear besides being misunderstood, which would be my fault anyway, is failing these people.
“For decades I have talked to and gotten letters from people who tell me that something I did helped them, or saved them from killing themselves, helped them get clean, stay clean or come out. Never once do I really think that I had anything to do with anyone staying alive, but I get where they’re coming from. All of them are better than I am and it is them I serve.”
Rollins accepts it may take him “a while” to learn his lessons, and concludes: “To those I offended, I believe you and I apologise. If what I wrote causes you to toss me out of your boat, it is to my great regret – but I understand and thank you for your thoughts.”
• Help is always there for anyone contemplating suicide. In the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (UK), visit Samaritans.org or find more options at NHS.uk. Elsewhere in the world you can find contact information via the International Association for Suicide Prevention. Many other options are also available.