For the millions of fans who remember actor/comedian Robin Williams for his delightful stream-of-consciousness improvisations, his brilliant movies or his many charitable works, his death Sunday night by suicide came as a stunning shock.
How could somebody so bright and talented — somebody who brought so much joy and laughter to the world and seemingly had so much to live for — be so troubled as to end their own life?
In fact, Williams had been open about his struggles with depression and his issues with substance abuse. He had been battling severe depression in his final days, according to his publicist.
We often tend to think of suicide in terms of young people lacking in life experience, not someone like the 63-year-old Williams who had accomplished so much. But statistics show the highest rates of suicide are among those aged 45 and 59, according to the Center for Disease & Control.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists the following warning signs for those who may be contemplating suicide:
• Talking about wanting to kill themselves or wishing they were dead.
• Preparing a way to kill themselves such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun.
• Talking about a specific suicide plan.
• Feeling hopeless, trapped or desperate.
• Feeling they are a burden to others.
• Feeling humiliated.
• Intense anxiety or panic attacks.
• Losing interest in things that had previously been pleasurable.
• Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends and family.
• Acting irritable or agitated.
• Showing rage or seeking revenge.
If you see the signs, take them seriously. More than half of those who commit suicide tell someone about their plans ahead of time. Let the person know you care, and try to get them help.
There are a number of suicide prevention hotlines available for those who need immediate help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.