The suicide of Robin Williams has shaken—and awakened us up. News of his death has made many of us think:

  • If someone with family, fame, and fortune could do that, could that happen to someone like me who doesn’t have all those things?
  • I’ve been feeling really down lately, and now I’m feeling even worse after hearing about Robin Williams, so should I—or will I—end up committing suicide, too?
  • How could someone who seemed so happy and who really made me laugh and feel good hide his depression? Am I hiding something that I don’t know about?

These are questions that both men and women might ask.

And, even though more men commit suicide than women, more women than men think about suicide or attempt it.

Here are important questions that help all of us learn from Robin Williams’ suicide.

The information comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Institute of Health, and the Center for Disease Control.

1. What causes such a major depression?

Major depressive episodes that can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts are often the result of a combination of life events and changes, poor health, substance abuse, genetic predisposition and history of major depression.

What are the major changes in your life?

Here’s a short list of the top life events that can trigger or worsen a depressed mood.

  • Financial problems
  • Break up and divorce—especially later in life divorce—and especially if your husband ran off with a woman much younger
  • Illness in you or loved ones
  • Getting older—especially in women, whose suicide rate increases between the ages of 45-64
  • Hormone fluctuations—especially in menopausal women
  • Increased use of drugs, alcohol, food, and risky behavior

Yet, your mood can cycle in and out of feeling good, okay, and not very good at all.

Your brain’s emotional regulation of mood can seem to have a life of its own.

2. What are the signs of depression?

Look at the past two weeks of your life.

Now imagine—or draw–a horizontal line. Each end of the line represents the extreme opposite of the other end.

Where would you put a mark to indicate where you are—and have been for the past two weeks–on each end of the scale about:

  • Loss of interest or concentration in things that usually interested you or suddenly interested in everything
  • Loss of sexual pleasure or interest or suddenly wanting lots of sex
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling too energetic or too low in energy
  • Wanting to avoid people and family or wanting to be “on” with lots of people
  • Feeling victimized and trapped with no way out and no relief from your dark moods and low self-esteem or feeling on top of the world and that you can conquer or destroy anything or anyone
  • You feel absolutely no aches or pain or feelings in general in your body or you feel lots of aches, pains and stomach upsets
  • You work too hard to appear happy on the outside while you feel horrible on the inside

If you have at least 4 of these symptoms for two weeks or more, consult your physician.

3. Who gets depressed?

Between 2008 and 2009 6.9% of the population reported as experiencing depression—1 in 15 people.

Most depressed people do not attempt suicide.

  • 3.9% of women thought about suicide vs 3.5% of men thought about suicide
  • 1% of both men and women made a suicide plan
  • .05% of women attempt it vs .04% of men attempt it
  • 3 women attempt suicide for each male attempt, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

Yet, suicide is 4 times more common among men than women. Why?

One explanation is that men tend to use guns, while women tend to use pills that do not result in suicide.

But researchers are discovering an increase in women using firearms to kill themselves.

4. If you are depressed, what is the best treatment?

Many research studies continue to demonstrate that a combination of medication and frequent cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions are most effective.

There is hope!

Don’t hesitate to get help.

There is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, you did not choose to have this predisposition to depression!

If you are experiencing doubt whether you are depressed or need help, why not “err” on the side of caution?

I was taught early in life: Don’t volunteer to close a door.

So, the greater risk to you is not going to seek help.

5. What should you do if you think a loved one is experiencing depression?

Oh boy—this is a difficult issue, for sure.

Many depressed people can hide their depression and the degree and danger of it. They can often get belligerent when you raise the issue.

If you have a loved one who is depressed, you might even fear that talking to them about it might make it worse.   Every situation has unique aspects.

But don’t back down from talking about it.

Do not go it alone. Rally his or her friends and family members and do an intervention.

Before you confront the person, however, get a plan.

Talk to your physician or a mental health counselor, or call your local suicide prevention number and ask for advice.

Do not assume that you can accurately assess the degree and danger of the person’s depression.

Educate yourself about depression.

Get bold.

Get some flyers from your local mental health center or print out online information and show them to your loved one.

Tell him or her that you are going for professional help to learn more about depression and to learn how to handle it.

Expect your partner or friend to get very angry.

He or she will tell you that “it is none of your business.”

Don’t fall for this trick.

You can say: “It most certainly is my business because I care about you and love you and want you in my life.”

Trust your instinct—and act on it.

Think about what is going on in your partner or friend or family member’s life.

Does the person have a history of depression?

Are you the kind of person who is too kind and doesn’t like to rock the boat?

Re-think your kindness as selfishness: You are protecting you from the confrontations that you always hate. Oops!

Your kindness could be working against you—and against your loved one.

Act! You have more to lose by not doing it.

To Learn More:

Thank you for stopping by. I hope these tips help. My mission is to help you stay smart, brave, sweet and intuitive about love, life, and work.

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish is a nationally recognized psychologist and licensed clinical social worker #7132, honored for her pioneering work with women’s issues in love, life, work and family. The National Association of Social Workers has included her on their list of the Fifty who has Contributed to the Profession. She is the subject of biographical entry in many Marquis’Who’s Who publications. Her latest self-help, research-based books are Smart Relationships and The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie, the cartoon companion book where you can follow a year of Cookie’s love missteps and learn about yours! Visit my website, to share your story.