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Robin Williams’ Final Act Could Save Millions of Lives

He’s played nearly every role in the books: a larger-than-life cartoon genie, a grown-up Peter Pan, a divorcee who resorts to cross-dressing to win his wife back, a quirky alien, an inspiring English teacher and a brutally honest therapist who helps a genius in denial find his true love.

But legendary actor Robin Williams’ tragic passing by apparent suicide shines the spotlight on a much more dangerous kind of act that millions of Americans put on every day, in an effort to hide their internal struggles with depression and other mental illnesses. While the definitive cause of Williams’ death remains under investigation, the almost inconceivable passing of such a well-beloved icon draws attention to those among us who are also be suffering in silence; waiting to be heard.

After all, who would’ve thought that the man who portrayed the real-life doctor who showed the medical profession the healing power of laughter could only see a future so dark that he no longer wanted to live? How could the actor who delivered the above speech with such gusto feel that life had left him with no other options?

Knowing when to intervene

The act of suicide claims the lives of over 39,000 Americans each year—a number that almost equals those who die from breast cancer, according to figures from the American Association of Suicidology (AAS).

The unfortunate reality is that individuals fitting Williams’ demographic description (white, middle-aged males) are some of the most likely candidates to commit suicide. And, while there’s no one “cause” of suicide, people who battle depression and/or addiction (like Williams did) are more likely to consider and eventually commit the act. Even those who are outwardly happy, and successful in their personal and professional lives (like Williams was) aren’t immune to hopeless thoughts—a fact we should all keep in mind when looking to our own friends and family members who could be experiencing a profound amount of inner suffering.

Approaching a loved one who you think might be suicidal is no easy task. The first step is to be aware of the warning signs of suicide. The AAS offers the following mnemonic device: Is the path warm?

I: Ideation
S: Substance abuse

P: Purposelessness
A: Anxiety
T: Trapped
H: Hopelessness

W: Withdrawal
A: Anger
R: Recklessness
M: Mood changes

If someone you know is exhibiting these signs, the AAS also offers some tips to intervene and help them get the assistance they need:

Talk it out: Tell them you’re concerned and listen to who they have to say. Take their comments seriously and let them know that you’re there to support them, but that they should also seek professional help.

Be honest: In your discussions, don’t shy away from mentioning the “s” word. Ask them if they’ve ever contemplated suicide. When you refuse to give in to the stigma of the term “suicide,” it can help them feel more comfortable opening up.

Seek outside help: Don’t feel like you need to go it alone with a loved one who might be suicidal. Talk to other individuals who love and care about them, and if you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

Related
Remembering Robin Williams’ Most Iconic Roles
11 Warning Signs of Depression
How to Break Out of a Mental Rut
The Deadly Consequences of Loneliness
5 Ways to Overcome Mid-Life Regret

Read more: Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Celebrities, Depression, Health, Life, Mental Wellness, News & Issues, , , , ,

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228 comments

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10:05AM PDT on Sep 29, 2014

Good Morning Karen; WOW thank you so much for your comment. You have no idea how much it has helped me and I bet a lot of other members who have felt that way or have friends and family who just need some one to listen and hear them ---- God Bless You Karen for your courage and struggle ---Sincerely Kay M.

7:03AM PDT on Sep 29, 2014

Roslyn M, I understand your pain when you say “I've had to learn the hard way it doesn't matter how much you care, or try to help, if the person will not help themselves there is nothing you can do once all suggestions have failed.”
I’ve been deeply, suicidally depressed, and suggestions will almost always fail. We’re not looking for suggestions. Good meaning folks always have suggestions. Watch a funny movie or TV show, look on the bright side, get out and be with people, think of how many people have it worse than you…
It doesn’t work. There is no bright side. Being with people is depressing. I don’t care about anybody who might have it worse than I do—you don’t know how I’m suffering, so how do you know they have it worse? I just want the pain to stop.
Listen. Let the person talk. Maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe they’ll learn something. Stop talking. Stop suggesting. Just listen. Yes, there’ll be repetition and you’ll be tired of hearing the same things over & over. Think of it like driving in circles trying to find a way back onto the interstate.
It’s frustrating for you. I understand that. Multiply that by about a billion and you might understand how we feel.
Robin, thank you for traveling our path for a while. May you find your way back to the interstate.

6:54AM PDT on Sep 28, 2014

METAPHOR: When an aircraft on a mission declares, ‘BINGO’, they R out of fuel and it’s time to go.
R. W. had enough of life and pending Den Untergang from his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. He felt he reached his ‘BINGO’.
- - The Lady of Shalott.....announces the arrival of her doom: “The curse is come upon me.”
Basis for: .The Band Perry - If I Die Young .
Suicide is ‘Contagious’. Pay more attention to those U care about, especially if they’re having ‘difficulties’ and more so if in ‘crises’.

Guys may have the attitude, ‘Talking is just messing around’. So, guys check-out suddenly, however they R warning signs all over the place for a long time. If U really ‘love’, learn nurturing skills. COP-OUT: I’ll pray for you. No, these people need direct contact of nurturing and caring.

Speculation: R. W. was so brilliant, genius that HE KNEW the FUTURE of what and how all was gonna 'unravel'. The theme from M*A*S*H, "Thur early morn fog I see the visions of the things 2 B... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gO7uemm6Yo Another verse: The only way to win is cheat. So, I'll lay it down B 4 I'm beat. And to another give my seat. For it's the only painless feat. ...(another give my seat = children / next generation).

6:31AM PDT on Sep 28, 2014

Speculation: R. W. was so brilliant, genius that HE KNEW the FUTURE of what and how all was gonna 'unravel'. The theme from M*A*S*H, "Thur early morn fog I see the visions of the things 2 B... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gO7uemm6Yo Another verse: The only way to win is cheat. So, I'll lay it down B 4 I'm beat. And to another give my seat. For it's the only painless feat. ...(another give my seat = children / next generation).

1:52AM PDT on Sep 25, 2014

thank you

3:00PM PDT on Sep 24, 2014

Thank you

12:43PM PDT on Sep 22, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

5:45PM PDT on Sep 21, 2014

Unfortunately I have someone very close to me who also suffers from extreme depression & anxiety (amongst other medical problems) - he will not help himself at all, although there are several things he COULD do. I've had to learn the hard way it doesn't matter how much you care, or try to help, if the person will not help themselves there is nothing you can do once all suggestions have failed. I was sorry to hear about Robin Williams, too.

9:35PM PDT on Sep 18, 2014

You will be greatly missed ... RIP, Robin.

4:52AM PDT on Sep 15, 2014

Thank you, RIP Robin. :(

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