Williams’s death raises suicide awareness: What can be done to prevent it?

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The death of Robin Williams  is bringing suicide and depression into the nation’s spotlight.

Suicide isn’t something reported in the news a lot. It’s very sensitive and very personal, but it’s something many people struggle with every day. The key is to see the signs, and get the help.

At Community Counseling Centers of Chicago in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, the team was put into action upon hearing the news of Williams's suicide. They provide phone calls and counseling for those struggling with mental illness.

“They think, ‘If this can happen to this guy, with all of his wonderful family, his money his career… my life is nothing like his, so why should I keep going on?’” said Ron Sumpter who works at the center.

Gail Cutler founded the organization Rebecca’s Dream after she and her husband lost their daughter Rebecca to suicide. They began the foundation to de-stigmatize mental illness and get people to learn the signs of when help is needed; people isolating themselves, changes in appearance, habits and defensiveness.

“You say the words and you speak the truth,” Gail said. “’I’ve noticed that you’re not happy… can we talk? How can I help you?’ “

And Chicago was one of the first cities in the country to begin a mental health first aid class. It’s a day long program to certify people in not only spotting those who may be struggling with mental illness, but how to take the next step to talk to that person and get them the help they need.


More info at Rebecca’s Dream:www.rebeccasdream.com or 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


Mental Health First Aid: www.c4chicago.org/MHFA



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1 Comment

  • Jess

    Jess calling Robin. Come in, Robin. Jess calling Robin. Come in, Robin.

    “Death. To die. To expire. To pass on. To perish. To peg out. To push up daisies. To push up posies. To become extinct. Curtains, deceased, demised, departed, and defunct. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a herring. Dead as a mutton. Dead as nits. The last breath. Paying a debt to nature. The big sleep. God’s way of saying, “Slow down.””
    “To check out.”
    “To shuffle off this mortal coil.”
    “To head for the happy hunting ground.”
    “To blink for an exceptionally long period of time.”
    “To find oneself without breath.”
    “To be the incredible decaying man.”
    “Worm buffet.”
    “Kick the bucket.”
    “Buy the farm.”
    “Take the cab.”
    “Cash in your chips.”

    You had all these euphemisms for no longer being alive, all said with a certain morbid humor that only you could achieve, and yet, when I look back now, I find it tougher and tougher to find that glimmer of comedy. Someone could ask me right now if I thought you were humorous, and all I would be able to say is, “I used to. There was a time when I found you funny, but today you have proven me wrong.”

    Please don’t think I’m judging you for the choice you made, because in all honesty, I’ve been there myself. “Yeah, I could do it. We both know you wouldn’t stop me. So answer me please. Tell me what you’re doing. Okay, let’s look at the logic. You create man. Man suffers enormous amounts of pain. Man dies. Maybe you should have had just a few more brainstorming sessions prior to creation. You rested on the seventh day. Maybe you should’ve spent that day on compassion… You know what? You’re not worth it.” In the end, I stop myself. “To die would be a grand adventure!” Which is true, I suppose, but then I reconsider. “Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.”

    Living with depression isn’t EASY. “This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.” As with every other struggle, there are ups and downs. Some days I wake up and evaluate my mental health with a positive perspective. “People call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff.” Through my treatment, I have met some of my closest friends. However, not every day is that effortless. More mornings than not, I would question what could possibly lie ahead. “What do I want to be when I grow up? Alive.” That is my dream: To grow up. “If it can be dreamed, it can be done.” So far, I’m doing it.

    “I try to make sense of things. Which is why, I guess, I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be.” But what reason can one find for existing in a state of perpetual misery? It certainly doesn’t help when people are passing judgement on you simply because you have a chemical unbalance in your brain. “Well, I’m not a freak.” Sure, I’ll tell myself that, but to what degree do I actually find it true? “I don’t know. I’m kinda f***ed up in general, so it’s hard to gauge.”

    People are asking how someone as boisterous and hilarious as you could feel so dismally depressed that you would actually commit suicide. “Like so many things, it is not what outside, but what is inside that counts.” I only wish someone had asked you what was going on inside you. While you were making the world laugh, you were silently dying inside. “What’s true in our minds is true, whether some people know it or not.” We may not have known about your misery, but that obviously brings no solace to you. I hope you know, though, “It’s not your fault.”

    Doctors are approaching the treatment of mental illnesses from a totally wrong perspective. “We need to start treating the patient as well as the disease.” Everyone with depression is not the same; we are not cookie cutter people who can all be helped with the same things across the board. I have been hospitalized three times for depression and suicidal thoughts, gone through countless medication changes, and still attend regular therapy sessions with a variety of doctors, but to say that I have been cured would be insulting to the internal turmoil that occurs daily. “I wish I could sometimes freeze frame a moment in my day, look at it and say “this is not my life.”” I wasn’t always this way, nor were you, but what changed? When? Why? It gets to the point where any potential freedom is a temptation beyond compare. “But oh, to be free. Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.” When life is so miserable that death equates to freedom, serious assistance is needed, but what’s being offered now to those who ask for help just isn’t cutting it.

    “The human spirit is more powerful than any drug – and THAT is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. THESE are the things that matter. This is what we’d forgotten – the simplest things.” I wish more doctors tried that approach to assisting those with mental illnesses instead of drugging us into a state of numb apathy. There is reason to hope for change in the future, though. “There is still a lot to learn and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful.” To you, your suicide was not a mistake, but to the rest of the world, there could not be a greater tragedy. However, you have brought mental health to the forefront of people’s minds and opened discussions that were previously taboo. Perhaps through these discussions, we can learn from your mistake and prevent other mistakes in the future.

    To some, your death was just the passing of another actor, but to me, it really struck home. I didn’t just see someone else who lost their battle against depression; I saw someone else who had deceived everyone into thinking he was fine. “Your job was improving the quality of life, not just delaying death.” Watching one of your movies was not just something done to pass the time in my household, and as such, I firmly believe you did your job exceptionally well. “To be acknowledged for who and what you were, no more, no less. Not for acclaim, not for approval, but, the simple truth of that recognition. This has been the elemental drive of your existence, and it has been achieved, so you may live and die with dignity.” You weren’t the best actor in Hollywood, but you were certainly one of the most beloved. It is just a shame that you could not have taken joy in your accomplishments and been “glad to be of service.” If only you could have seen yourself the way that the rest of us saw you. “You did not know how precious your gift was.”

    I have always had trouble coming to terms with the idea of someone no longer being around, but I’m finding it especially difficult with someone I admired as much as you. “I love you with every cell, with every atom. I love you on a subatomic level.” The fact that you’re no longer here is baffling, but you leave a legacy that will remain forever. “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” Despite no longer living on this earth, you will continue to influence me forevermore. I finish typing this with trembling fingers and tears pouring down my cheeks. “A tear for every happy thought.” Needless to say, that’s a lot of tears. From when I first saw you on Mork and Mindy as a young girl, I knew that there were many more happy thoughts to come. “I’m gonna be telling your story, Robin Williams, long after you’re dead and gone!”

    Jess from the US