While I was instantly saddened by the news of Robins Williams’ apparent suicide, I was also worried about the effect his suicide could have on others. Sadly, there is an increase in the rates of ‘copycat’ suicides after a famous person commits suicide. People of all ages have been touched by Robin Williams. Children know him from his voice work in Aladdin and Happy Feet, as well as his appearances in Hook, Night in the Museum and many other movies. Teens and adults have been brought to tears watching him in Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting.
Many people are afraid to talk about suicide and what drives people to end their own life. People show remorse and sadness with their posts and comments on social media, but are afraid to discuss this tragedy in any more detail.
What’s really scary is the number of people who commit suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for adults in the United States. That’s one death by suicide every 13 minutes. For teenagers and young adults (ages 10-24), suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death.
These numbers are staggering and represent the number of deaths, NOT the number of people attempting suicide or thinking about suicide.
I recently completed a Mental Health First Aid course that focused on identifying youth who be in the early stages of developing behavioral and mental health issues or approaching a crisis situation. So many young people are misunderstood, bullied, alone, unable to explain what they are feeling, and embarrassed to ask for help.
What Can You Do To Help?
What’s the best thing you can do if you think someone is struggling or upset? It’s really very simple. Ask them if they have a few minutes to talk to you. Show them that you care by being present, focus on them and really listen to what they have to say. Don’t judge or downplay their worries and concerns.
What Are Some Warning Signs?
There are many signs that someone may be at risk and approaching a crisis situation. These warning signs may include self-injury (eg. cutting), substance abuse, frequent panic or anxiety attacks, suffered from a traumatic event (e.g accident, assault, changes in family life, etc), suffering with behavioral issues, as well as the many signs of depression.
Will I Make Things Worse?
If your gut instinct tells you that something is wrong, listen to that little voice and offer support. Studies have shown that ASKING someone if they are thinking about hurting themselves or suicide DOES NOT cause someone to become suicidal. What’s surprising is the number of people who attempted suicide who revealed that if even one person asked them if they were thinking about killing themselves, they never would have made the attempt. They just needed to know that someone really cared.
What Long-Term Solutions Are Available?
We should all learn to be supportive to anyone dealing with mental health issues. While many people think the solution is easy – go to the doctor, get medicine, and you are ‘cured’, the truth is it may take some time to find the right medication at the right dose to provide you with some relief. A treatment plan may also require the right type of therapy (e.g cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, bio-feedback, hypnosis, etc), alternative therapies (eg. acupuncture, chiropractic. etc), as well as focusing on nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. Not every solution will work for everyone, so the key is to keep trying and find what works best for you.
Reach Out And Help Someone Today
The first step is easy. Just show that you care. There are many teachers, coaches, school counselors, local support groups, trained professionals, suicide or crisis hotlines available that can provide short and long term help to someone in need. Look online and see what’s available in your area. What if you could change a life just by offering support and a shoulder to cry on?