Professor Stephen Hawking, who died aged of 76, is being remembered for many things, but his message of hope for those dealing with depression is important, too.
While tributes are being made and the world mourns the loss of one of its greatest minds, we’re reminded of a piece of advice he gave to people suffering from depression that will last forever.
The theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author was speaking in front of an audience of around 400 people at the Reith Lecture at the Royal Institute.
While he was talking about mental health, he drew a parallel between black holes and depression in the best way he knew how, and it was a message of hope.
The message of this lecture is black holes aren’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought.
Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly to another universe. So if you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up – there’s a way out.
Hailed as the ‘greatest mind of our generation’, Hawking defied medical opinion, despite suffering from a form motor neurone disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
On Monday (8 January), Hawking celebrated his 76th birthday despite being given two years to live way back in 1963.
He even had a film made about his life, The Theory of Everything, in which he was portrayed by Eddie Redmayne – who received an Oscar, among heaps of other awards for the role.
The disease kills most people diagnosed within the first five years, but he’s defied all odds and continued to live an interesting life.
In 1985 his then-wife refused doctors’ query of whether to turn off his life support machine when he was struck down with pneumonia.
The scientist was in a drug-induced coma in a Geneva hospital at the time and in the 2013 documentary Hawking, he said:
The doctors thought I was so far gone, they offered Jane to turn off the machine. Jane refused to turn it off. She insisted I be flown back to Cambridge.
The weeks of intensive care which followed were the darkest of my life, because every day could be my last.
I have a desire to make the most of every single minute.
The disease has left him unable to speak and in need of constant care, but this hasn’t prevented him from continuing his incredible work in science.
In 1988, he released his book A Brief History of Time, which has since sold 10 million copies – he continues to give speeches and lectures.
During his talk, Hawking also spoke of ‘appreciating his achievements’, saying:
Although it was unfortunate to get motor neurone disease, I have been very fortunate in almost everything else.
I have been lucky to work in theoretical physics at a fascinating time and it’ s one of the few areas in which my disability was not a serious handicap.
It’s also important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life may seem because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and life in general.
Hawking died peacefully at his Cambridge home in the early hours of Wednesday, March 14.
His children released a touching tribute to their father that said:
He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.
He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’
We will miss him forever.
Many people have been sharing profound messages on social media – they include tributes from other famous scientists, Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Sad to hear about Stephen Hawking. What a remarkable life. His contributions to science will be used as long as there are scientists, and there are many more scientists because of him. He spoke about the value and fragility of human life and civilisation and greatly enhanced both
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) March 14, 2018
His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science. His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014 pic.twitter.com/FeR4fd2zZ5
— NASA (@NASA) March 14, 2018