For those of us of a certain age, our first memories of Robin
Williams are of his kicking out the side of a gigantic egg on the
television show, “Mork and Mindy.”
For nearly 40 years Williams
made us laugh in movies such as “The World According to Garp,” “Good
Morning, Vietnam,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.” He also made us take serious
looks at life in “Awakenings,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Good Will
Hunting.” He amazed us in “Aladdin” and “Bicentennial Man,” and he even
scared us when he accepted roles on the dark side of life, such as in
“One Hour Photo.”
This week, Williams made us cry with his suicide.
is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to contemplate how he
ever arrived at the point where the decision to commit suicide was a
viable option. Williams was an acknowledged comic genius who rose to the
heights of his profession, receiving multiple Academy Award nominations
and winning the Best Supporting Actor trophy for “Good Will Hunting.”
He also won two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globes, two Screen Actor Guild
awards, and five Grammys. Williams was also married and had three
But that was what we saw in the public. Behind the
scenes, Williams battled addictions to cocaine and alcohol, returning to
rehab multiple times. In the past few years his health had started to
slip and he had an aortic valve replacement. He had also recently been
diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s Disease. All of these changes
added to the depression he had suffered from for decades.
we often need to see something tragic happen to a notable or famous
person before we sit up and take notice of a problem in our society.
Suicide is an issue that should have been on our radar long before
Williams’ death. Consider these statistics:
- In 2011, 39,518 Americans committed suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the country.
- There are twice as many deaths from suicide than from HIV/AIDS.
- From 1952 to 1995, suicides in young adults tripled.
- For people in the 15-24-year-old age group, suicide is the third largest cause of death.
- There are an estimated eight to 25 suicide attempts for each completion.
- The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.
The typical profile of a person committing suicide is a white male,
middle-aged or older, towards the tail end of a successful career, who
suffers from a serious medical issue and/or substance abuse, and who has
In short, the profile perfectly describes Robin Williams.
will never know all of the pain and issues that went into Williams’
decision to end his life. It is impossible now for any of us to sit down
and try to reason with him, talk him out of such a permanent decision.
However, perhaps we can use his untimely death to learn and stop others
from ending in the same position.
Some symptoms and dangers of suicide include:
- Talking about wanting to die or killing oneself
- Talking about hopelessness or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped
- Talking about being a burden
- Showing an increase in drug or alcohol use
- Showing altered sleep patterns where they sleep either way too much or too little
- Displays extreme mood swings
- Shows a loss of interest in things they used to care greatly about
- Giving prized possessions away
you see these warning signs in someone or you realize you are having
thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help. The area hotline for Van
Wert County is 800-523-3978 or you can call the Mercer, Van Wert and
Paulding ADAMH Board at 419-238-5464. In Allen County, the hotline
number is 800-567-4673 or the MHRS Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin
Counties at 419-222-5120.
(All statistics and warning signs
are from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Suicide
Awareness Voice of Education)