On August 11, 2014 news of Robin Williams’ death spread like wildfire. People across the globe, The President, fellow actors, friends and family expressed condolences over the grim event. News stations ran the word SUICIDE in big bold print across their front pages and the bottom of their TV screens. The words suicide, depression, and why, why, why, filled our discussions and our ears. People criticized, condemned, and sympathized.
After several weeks the same discussions of suicide, depression and why, why, why, are still taking place. The truth is we never get the answers to the why suicide and why depression questions. Whether a celebrity, a family member, a friend or an acquaintance – be it someone who completed or simply attempted (and thankfully failed!) suicide, the act of attempting suicide leaves giant WHY questions never to be answered. They simply linger.
I wish I could be as eloquent as Glennon Doyle Melton, when she talks about needing help and depression in her blog posts. I wish I could be as understanding about depression and mental illness. The psychological pain that leads to taking one’s own life is unimaginable to me. I wish I could relate better, so that I could be more helpful to those I love. I really really wish I had answers. Not answers about Robin Williams but answers to my more personal questions. Answers as to why someone I know would attempt suicide, how could I not have realized it was that bad, and why depression is so crippling. These questions and more spin through my head every single time the news covers a celebrity tragedy such as Robin Williams. The media is often criticized for their inappropriate reporting and sensationalizing of suicides. Did news of Robin’s fate increase the risk of a similar fate among susceptible people? I was saddened by news of Robin’s passing but if you are depressed already, if you are already having thoughts of ending it all, if you are already fighting off the darkness, what did the media blitz on August 11th and the following days do to you? I cringe at the thought.
One person commits suicide every 40 seconds and more than 800,000 people commit suicide every year according to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2014 report on suicide prevention. In the US, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2011, and in 2012 it was the 5th leading cause of death among those aged 30-49 years. The statistics around suicide are scary; really scary! Per the CDC, for every completed suicide, there are 20-25 attempted suicides, and this rate grows to more than 100 attempts for every completed suicide among young adults 15 to 24 years old.
I want to help. I want to do more. I want to understand better. I never ever want to get a call at 5 a.m. with horrible news on the other end of the line and I never want anyone else to either. I want my children to never have to hear the word suicide, let alone be affected by a suicide, or worst yet contemplate suicide themselves. These are BIG wants and they may be outside of my power as a mother, friend, woman, person, but I can’t stop wanting them to be truth.
The WHO is seeking to reduce suicide rates by 10 percent by 2020. September 10th has been declared, World Suicide Prevention Day and aims to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma surrounding suicide. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) has created a toolkit in support of September 10th with a cycling initiative, hashtags, cards, facts and figures. I urge you to join me and people all over the world who are supporting World Suicide Prevention Day. Let us all fight the darkness together.