Whenever a public figure dies, particularly one who brought as much joy and laughter to us as Robin Williams did, we grieve. We are not only shocked by the suddenness of his death, but by the apparent circumstances of it, as well. It is human to try and make sense of it all.
Robin Williams must have been in unbearable pain. It is likely that he lost the feeling of hope that things would ever change, but we can’t know that. Those closest to him may have an inkling, or they may not. People in enough pain to consider ending their lives often keep their dire thoughts to themselves, the better to spare loved ones an additional burden.
People in enough pain to consider ending their lives often keep their dire thoughts to themselves, the better to spare loved ones an additional burden.
According to the Injury Prevention Program of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, more than 10,000 people in 2011 required medical attention as a result of a suicide attempt, and 588 died of suicide. Mental health professionals are working hard each day to better understand, diagnose and treat depression and substance abuse. Non-professionals have an important — potentially life-saving — role to play, too.
We can let those we love and care about know when we see them struggling. We can listen with compassion and kindness to their stories. We can remind them of their importance to us and to others, and let them know they are not alone. We can take them to treatment, and we can ask for help from others when we are worried that the risk is too great to leave them alone.
And we can be kind and forgiving to ourselves when their pain is just too great, and they leave us despite our best efforts and great love. For each person lost to suicide, at least six loved one’s lives are forever changed. When it is Robin Williams, beloved by millions, we know that number to be far greater.
Connection with another human being can help save lives. If we feel compelled to do something in memory of this man who made us laugh and who brought us happiness, let it be connecting with one other human being we care about, we have worried about, and whom we love.
Mental Health Resources:
Roberta Hurtig Cognoscenti contributor
Roberta Hurtig is the executive director of Samaritans, Inc. She also served as a co-chair of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention and is a member of Samaritans USA, is an Advisory Board member for the Massachusetts National Violent Death Reporting System.