Last month, a lot of people were rocked by the death of one of the greats.
Robin Williams was a household name of a person who can cheer up the worst days with his presence in television: As the Captain, as Patch Adams, as Mrs Doubtfire, or my personal favorite, as the Genie.
And yet, he took matters into his own hands as he decided to end his own life.
However, Robin Williams was not the only star who decided to go down that road:
- “Top Gun” director Tony Scott jumped off a bridge into the Los Angeles Harbor.
- Nirvana’s front man, Kurt Cobain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
- So did the author, Ernest Hemmingway.
- Fashion Designer Alexander McQueen slit his wrists and hung himself.
If these deaths were proof of anything, it’s that it is not enough to have only fame and fortune, it is more important to have friends and family to see you through.
According to the World Health Organization, around 800,000 people worldwide commit suicide, and although that does not seem like a very large number, it’s equal to about one person taking his or her own life every forty seconds.
The sad fact is that suicide is something of a taboo to speak of. Sure, we mourned for the celebrities who decided their fame and fortune did not guarantee them a good life, but if we know someone — a friend or a family member, for instance, who attempted or successfully did so, we would be talking about it in hushed voices. We would point fingers at anyone who we feel we should blame, and we would deny that the person close to us took his life away because of what would it say about us as parents, as friends, as partners.
However, unlike the people in the list, most of those who commit suicide don’t show outward signs of depression. In many instances, it’s in the little things, and when suicide is the topic, every little thing counts.
Here are some signs of someone who may be contemplating taking his own life, according to Suicide Line Australia:
- Major changes to sleeping patterns – too much or too little.
- Loss of energy
- Loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
- Loss of interest in sex
- Sudden and extreme changes in eating habits – either loss of appetite or increase in appetite
- Weight gain or loss
- Increase in minor illnesses
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Fighting and/or breaking the law
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Quitting activities that were previously important
- Prior suicidal behavior
- Putting affairs in order e.g. giving away possessions, especially those that have special significance for the person
- Writing a suicide note or goodbye letters to people
- Uncharacteristic risk-taking or recklessness (e.g. driving recklessly)
- Unexplained crying
- Emotional outbursts
- No future – “What’s the point? Things are never going to get any better”
- Guilt – “It’s all my fault, I’m to blame”
- Escape – “I can’t take this anymore”
- Alone – “I’m on my own … no-one cares about me”
- Damaged – “I’ve been irreparably damaged… I’ll never be the same again“
- Helpless – “Nothing I do makes a bit of difference, it’s beyond my control”
- Talking about suicide or death
- Planning for suicide
I would like to emphasize prior suicidal behavior, if you’d be patient with me.
Just because a person seems to be doing well a few weeks or months (even years) after a suicide attempt, does not mean that he’s okay. He needs help, and unfortunately, most of the people who do die in their own hands do not seek help, again, because of it being a taboo in society.
People don’t just kill themselves because they feel bad for a day or two. They do so because there are many factors in their lives that lead to it, and it’s like an explosion — one day it’s going to be too much, and until all the issues are addressed, from his own personal problems to external factors, there is no way of saying that a person who hurt himself before won’t hurt himself again, and that next time could probably really be the end.
As a family member or as a friend — initiate the conversation. Talk to the person you suspect may be showing signs of being suicidal, and listen. Really listen. No picking up your phone, no television, no internet, no interjections about your (or someone else’s) “bigger” problems, and no comparing him to someone else who may be having the same problems. Remember that we are not the same level of strong, and just because you think his problem is less than your own, it does not mean that his is less validated.
Help him seek help. Urge him to see a therapist. Some psychological and emotional problems go deeper than what even he may understand himself, and it will be helpful if he seeks a professional who can sort things out with him. You don’t have to help your friend or loved one alone.
What if you’re the one who wants to end his life?
Admit to yourself that you need help. Once you can do so, ask for help. Find a person whom you can trust — your family, best friend, your significant other. If they let you down, find someone else. Your psychologist. A teacher you trust. Your guidance counselor. Your company’s doctor or psychologist. Talk to the cab driver or the bartender, they know more than you think. Also, statistically speaking, more people tend to open up to strangers than loved ones. Find someone who can help you, because despite what you think, you are loved more than you could ever know, and it’s going to be a difficult subject, but if you love yourself enough, and if you love your loved ones enough, you will help yourself be better.
Coming from someone who had someone she loved almost die because of suicide, please don’t take your own life away. You’re going to hurt more than just yourself. You’re going to hurt everyone who cares about you, too.
If the world is a stage, your world has only one you:
no substitutes, no body double, no understudy.
No one else can play your part.