Robin Williams was many men in a single lifetime.
As a gifted actor and comedian Robin Williams was able to make us laugh, make us cry, and touch our hearts with the characters he portrayed. In real life, Robin was also a man dealing with depression.
Just days after his death on August 11, I began hearing from individuals and family members of those who have been struggling with anxiety and depression. Many feared that his choice of suicide would give a signal to their loved ones that it was OK to take their own life to end their struggle or pain.
I believe it hit especially hard because it shows us that fame, fortune, family, friends, and success are not insulation from the feelings of hopelessness that often occur when depression crashes down.
One writer suggests suicide is a “belief-related death”, where suffers believe their pain will never end here on Earth. The author goes on to wonder if perhaps that belief is wrong. While it’s not an easy road, the belief is indeed wrong. Depression is not terminal.
When a person is depressed they should make only one major life decision – How to constructively overcome their depression. Depression distorts reality and the ability to think reasonably. It can give the person a sense of fatalism where they perceive their current situation as a never-ending condition.
Along with depression, Robin Williams had periodic drug and alcohol abuse problems. He had tried many times to kick his habits, though his wife has stated Robin was sober at the time of his death. Substance abuse is often used in an attempt to smother depression. Unfortunately, this is in fact an accelerant for depression.
Williams was also in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a debilitating disease and leaves little wonder that 14% of its sufferers think about dying. However, the actual occurrence of suicidal behavior in Parkinson’s patients is very low.
Whatever the circumstances were that led Robin Williams to end his own life; it is a tragic end of someone who brought the world so much joy. As in many cases where tragedies occur, there are opportunities created for hope in the lives of others.
We need to take suicidal thinking Seriously
Passive thoughts about death often occur as an expression of how badly you feel when depressed. This is markedly different from actively thinking about suicide. While passive
thinking about dying is important to keep in context, suicidal behavior needs to be taken especially seriously. The individual must be taken to the nearest emergency facility for evaluation and treatment immediately.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a trained counselor who can help.
The suicide rate among the general population is .00011%; equaling out to about 10-12 people per 100,000 who will take their own life. However, among those who are depressed the suicide rate can be as high as 2%.
“At Risk” does not mean Inevitable
Statistically, suicide is rare. Although depression is complex, and normally includes unpleasant coexisting conditions, most people can and do learn to overcome depression. Often they also learn to prevent depression from coming back. The best tool is to reach out for the facilitated help of psychotherapy. There are also self-help books from a variety of perspectives like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Mindfulness.
Suicide is a highly preventable cause of death. Do not let pride get in your way. Obtain counseling help for your depression. Seek out your spiritual or religious base or medical provider in order to effectively address “hopelessness and helplessness thinking”. This is a promising path to suicide prevention.
All Depressions are not alike
Keep in mind that not all depressions are alike. Some occur for visible cause, such as a painful and unwanted divorce. Some are mild, you just kind of limp through the day for weeks or months, and eventually the depression lifts.
Depression often has a tangible trigger: a loss, or a series of setbacks. However, it may arise in the context of your pressured grinding perfectionism where you believe you can’t do things right. Ultimately your self-pressure to do better overwhelms you trying to do what can’t be done. Other depressions are unpredictable and when they come, they are consuming.
All depressions are serious. Some are more disabling. All merit addressing.
When pessimism is pervasive, you may think it is impossible to break free. However, this is an inflexible form of thinking. You may think it is, but what you think reflects how you temporarily feel. Depression is not eternal.
How Anxiety fits in
Anxiety precedes depression about 60% of the time. Depression precedes anxiety about 18% of the time. By addressing your anxiety, you can reduce your risk of depression. [pullQuote position=”right”]Perfectionism is a common trigger for anxiety.[/pullQuote]
The death of a public figure, while incredibly sad, often opens up conversations about difficult topics. No one knows exactly what led Robin Williams to end his own life. However, we can use his tragic decision to help ourselves, and others who are depressed not to make the same choice.
THERE ARE OTHER CHOICES
There are many strategies to start the process of overcoming depression. Below are just some of the ways you can start to change how depression affects your life and begin on your path to relief.
- Use self-improvement strategies to reduce or eliminate your depression.
- Learn to change depressing negative thinking patterns. This helps provide relief from the pain of depression.
- Strengthen brain structures associated with making realistically positive changes in your thinking through therapeutic coaching/counseling help.
- Refuse to accept depressive thinking as valid.
- View depression as transitory.
- Seek therapeutic help to engage in constructive change activities.
- Understand that a mistake or failure today does not make you a failure or ensure you will fail tomorrow. You have a future and you can change it.
- Increase your activity. It is a remedy for depression.
- Actively examine your thinking process. Practice allowing yourself to let negative thoughts fade in their own time. By actively working to disrupt negative thinking, you can gain relief from depression.
- Learn more about Cognitive-behavioral methods. These can address depression and apply to many other challenging situations, such as combating substance abuse, improving relationships with others, and getting along better with yourself.
Remember: There is always an alternative to suicide.
If you feel seriously depressed, and have a plan for ending your life, pause. Get help. Give yourself time to learn and use antidepression methods, and then pass them on to others who suffer from depression.
When you can think of nothing else to do, call 911.
Finally, prevention is the best protection against depression, substance abuse, suicide, and other tragic forms of human distress. We have the resources and means to prevent much needless emotional misery. Ask for Help, it’s there for you.
Are you or someone you know depressed or having suicidal thoughts?
Check the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s warning signs:
or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.