Like everyone else I was saddened by the news of Robin Williams death and shocked hearing that he had committed suicide. As a child Mork and Mindy was part of my weekly TV watching schedule (yes I had the rainbow-colored suspenders and may have incorporated nanu-nanu into my vocabulary). His ability to improvise was genius and making people laugh was as natural to him as breathing is to the rest of us.
So the question we all have is how does a man who created his fame and fortune from a lifetime of making people laugh become so distraught that he takes his own life? Sadly we can’t know for sure what was going on with him in those final days leading up to his suicide, however; we can learn some things from this tragedy.
Most of the people associate suicide with teenage angst. However; historically, the elderly (the majority being elderly men) have been the most at-risk for suicide it’s just not as publicized as teenage suicide is. Over the past decade those aged 45 to 59 have surpassed them as the boomers entered middle age. According to the CDC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the increase has helped push the total number of deaths caused by suicide in the U.S. higher than those caused by auto accidents.
Speaking with some experts from Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health on this phenomenon I learned that men between the ages of 50-65 have the highest suicide completion rate. While other demographics will usually make a statement about wanting to kill themselves or have failed attempts at suicide as a cry for help, this demographic don’t usually make statements about it, they just do it.
So how can loved ones help prevent something they may not see coming? Unfortunately not every suicide can be prevented, however; there are some signs to watch for that could help in getting someone treatment before they take their life.
The CDC says to watch for these warning signs:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
The more severe these symptoms are, the higher the risk is. If a friend or loved one is displaying these symptoms, don’t leave them alone. Keep them away from firearms, which are the most common means of self-harm in the United States, and also remove any alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects. And then get help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention help line at 800-273-TALK (8255), or another suicide help line. You can contact a psychiatrist. Call 911 or take your loved one to the emergency room.