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Understanding Robin Williams’ death

It was interesting to hear and read the comments of some following the death by suicide of comedian-actor Robin Williams. 

The Laugh Factory honors Robin Williams memory in Los Angeles
The Laugh Factory honors Robin Williams memory in Los Angeles (Valerie Macon/Getty Images)

While the majority seemed to be saddened by the news it seems that many felt little sympathy because Williams took his own life.  They assumed that because outwardly the 63-year old Williams appeared joyful, successful and wealthy his death by hanging was simply a gutless action in the face of some adversity.  In all likelihood that conclusion is not very accurate.

Most who had followed his career knew Williams had battled substance abuse and other health-related issues and reports are now circulating that he might have had financial problems and was clearly batting depression.  For far too many suicide is the option they chose to escape the demons that are plaguing them.

You may be surprised to know that according to the most recent statistics the number of deaths by suicide has climbed to more than 39,000 per year, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the country and second among young people.  Men are four times more likely to take their own life than women and in Williams’ age group the suicide rate has increased nearly 30%.

Bottom line: every 13 minutes a person takes their own life and unlike in the case of Williams most do so in relative obscurity.  There is a pretty good chance you know someone who has killed themselves and if not then you likely know someone who knows someone.

About two-thirds of those are people who are depressed at the time of their deaths and the risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times greater than the general population.   The truth is when you read the obituaries they don’t tell you that a person has died by suicide, which takes the lives of twice as many people as homicide.

Depression is often the white elephant in the room and some hide it by making a joke of it. We now know that it’s no laughing matter and even the funniest of funny men couldn’t beat it.

Hopefully there will be something positive to come out of the death of the iconic Williams and that is we will open our eyes a bit to mental illness and the grip it has on so many.  Depression is a mental illness, one that nearly 10% of adults in the U.S. suffer from at some point.  If you’re in a room with 20 people that means two of them are likely depressed.  Look around and try and pick out the two. Better yet look in a mirror because you and I might just be one of them.

If you’ve been depressed and are desperate and hopeless to the point of thinking about suicide call CONTACT of Ocean and Monmouth Counties at (732) 240-6100.  Trained volunteers are there 24 hours a day to listen and respond.

 

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