North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Suicide can be prevented; mental illness needs to be talked about


Just last week we all received the tragic news regarding the death of actor, Robin Williams, 63. What was even more heartbreaking was that he committed suicide.

It has been hard to fathom how a man who always had a fun and cheerful face in public could be so severely depressed that he no longer felt that his life was worth living.

The fact that he was famous, wealthy had family and friends who loved him and seemed to have been able to achieve all of his dreams in life couldn’t make up for the fact that he felt leaving this life would be easier than staying in it. It is truly incomprehensible.

Since Williams’ suicide we have heard more talk of mental illness and depression. There have been outcries against the stigma that comes along with this diagnosis and pleadings for increased compassion for those suffering from depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental illness.

A friend of mine said it best on Facebook the day after Williams’ died. She posted, “In light of the sad death of someone we all enjoyed in the entertainment world, the truth is, mental illness is all around us. Our family, our friends, and those we don't know but our paths may cross. Please remember the same love, care and concern that you have shown for Robin Williams and his family. Mental illness is real and difficult for those that suffer or are caregivers. They need our love and support too. Many just try to focus on the moments or the day. Remember you don't know another person’s challenges or difficulties so please take a deep breath before you throw out a judgment about them.”

Suicide is a statistical partner of depression and mental illness but it is also preventable. We have to watch for signs including simple statements, isolation or a change in behavior from those we love and care for.

The Centers for Disease Control tracks the data regarding mortality in the United States. In 2011, the last year that this data was collected, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

There were 39,518 suicides reported that year which means that someone committed suicide every 13.3 minutes. That is over four deaths by suicide every hour in this country.

If one of our friends had a lump or some other sign of cancer, we would tell them, even beg them, to go to the doctor and get it treated. We would stand by their side while they battled this horrible disease.

If we know someone who we think might be suffering from depression or other mental illness, we should be doing the same. We should plead with them to get help and stand by them as they go through the process of trying to get better or at least get the help they need to lead a more normal life.

It seems that Williams was at the most risk of suicide according to the CDC’s figures. His gender, age and the fact that he is a white male are all leading indicators when it comes to suicide in this country.

“In 2011, the highest suicide rate (18.6) was among people 45 to 64 years old. The second highest rate (16.9) occurred in those 85 years and older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2011, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 11.0,” it states on the Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website.

Men also have a higher suicide rate than women do. In 2011, 78.5 percent of those who committed suicide were male and 21.5 percent were female.

The most frequently cited risk factors for suicide include the following. Please keep in mind that most people who are suicidal have more than one of these risk factors.

Mental disorders, in particular: Depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder; Alcohol or substance abuse or dependence; Schizophrenia; Borderline or antisocial personality disorder; Conduct disorder (in youth); Psychotic disorders; psychotic symptoms in the context of any disorder; Anxiety disorders; Impulsivity and aggression, especially in the context of the above mental disorders; Previous suicide attempt; Family history of attempted or completed suicide or serious medical condition and/or pain.

Remember that most people with these risk factors do not engage in suicidal behavior but they still need help from a medical professional.

If you know of someone who might be suffering or if you feel that you might need to talk to someone about suicidal thoughts, please tell someone immediately, contact your doctor or call a suicide prevention line.

There is also help at local schools for parents or students who may need help as well.

No one wants to lose a loved one from suicide.


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