The Tragic Death of Robin Williams: Warning Signs of Suicide

Gentle Readers, I am sure I am not alone in my shock at the news of the death of Robin Williams. His publicist's succinct statement - "He has been battling severe depression of late" - sparks more questions in lieu of an explanation because something so seemingly random to outsiders and to those who have never struggled with depression defies comprehension. We will never know his personal demons or the "black dog" that haunted him.

I ran a series of blog posts on the topic of depression last year in conjunction with Depression Awareness Month and "came out of the closet," as it were, about my own personal battle. Today I am re-posting in part 10 Signs You Should Know of the 10th Leading Cause of Death.

It's possible that there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent Robin Williams' death, but knowing the warning signs might help someone you know.

From October 20, 2013

Gentle Readers, Throughout the month of October, we have focused on Depression Awareness. In addition to the special 99¢ Book Sale Benefit of "Alicia Embracing the Dark" intended to widen understanding of depression as well as support the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms, earlier this month in my post When It's Almost Impossible to Appear Tolerably Cheerful, I disclosed my own personal, on-going battle with Major Depressive Disorder. For National Depression Screening Day, I had a special post detailing the symptoms of depression and how to find help or take an anonymous evaluation, as well as how depression feels to me personally when I cannot hold the darkness at bay.

With about ten days remaining in Depression Awareness Month, I want to share the warning signs of suicide. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and 90% of those who commit suicide have clinical depression or another mental illness. More than a million Americans attempt suicide every year, and half of people who commit suicide have attempted it before.

Would you recognize the warning signs in time?

 1.   Excessive sadness or moodiness. Long-lasting sadness, mood swings, and unexpected rage. Trouble sleeping or eating.

2.    Losing interest in things one used to care about.
3.    Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless. Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out."
4.    Always talking or thinking about death.
5.   Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy or suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.
6.    Social withdrawal. Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities.
7.    Changes in personality and/or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behavior, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.
8.    Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights. Dangerous or self-harmful behavior, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol might indicate that the person no longer values his or her life.
9.    Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will. Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will, and cleaning up his or her room or home.
10.    Talking about suicide or killing one's self.

According to WebMD: From 50% to 75% of those considering suicide will give someone -- a friend or relative -- a warning sign; however, not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it.

Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously. If someone you know appears to be depressed and talks about suicide, makes a suicidal gesture, or attempts suicide, take it as a serious emergency. Listen to the person, but don't try to argue with him or her. Seek immediate help from a health care professional.

Listen to what he or she is saying. Take the initiative to ask that person what he or she is planning. But don't attempt to argue him or her out of committing suicide. Rather, let the person know that you care and understand and are listening. Avoid statements like: "You have so much to live for."

Please: Tweet and post links to this blog or to the WebMD articles on suicide


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