August 14, 2014

Robin Williams Death Spurs Discussions About Depression

A black and white photograph of Robin Williams with his year of birth, 1951, and his year of death, 2014, which was posted on the apple.com website.
SOURCE: Apple.com --- Remembering Robin Williams

By Roy Steele


Be aware of these suicide warning signs, and consult with these resources to reach out for help.


SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA: There are times in our lives when we hear bad news that is so tragic, that it’s hard to fathom or comprehend. When I first saw the headline that Robin Williams died in my news feed online, I closed the tab in my browser, and prayed that being nearsighted distorted my reading comprehension, and that the beloved comic was safely ensconced in his Marin County home.

Robin Williams, 63, tragically died on Monday. According to Marin County Assistant Deputy Chief Coroner Lt. Keith Boyd, the preliminary cause of death was asphyxiation, as a result of suicide.


My thoughts and prayers are with Robin Williams’ family, his friends, and everyone  touched by his life.

Robin Williams’ outsize talent affected millions and millions of people’s lives over the years, as an Oscar winning actor, and a magnanimous comedian, with a huge heart and a generous spirit. He made everyone laugh, and the world was a better place with Robin Williams in it.

It’s hard to describe the immense sadness I feel right now. Some of my sadness comes from feeling a sense of loss. And a big part of feeling sad is due to the fact that I know suicide is preventable.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention issued a public statement related to this tragedy, asking that the public be open to having a conversation about depression and addictions.
He brought laughter into every life he touched; Robin also suffered from depression.  It is our hope that we are able to have an open conversation that depression and addictions are real illnesses that can sometimes be fatal.  Every 13 minutes someone dies from suicide, and it is among the top ten causes of death in the US.   
We have to do more to prevent such tragic deaths through greater awareness of mental health issues, warning signs, effective interventions and treatment.  Suicide is preventable and we all have a role to play to end the tragedy of suicide.
It’s no secret that Robin Williams was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. More than 90% of people who commit suicide have struggled with addictions, or psychotic episodes, and a major depressive disorder, and the majority of people who seek out help are treated successfully.

A photo of Robin Williams entertaining the crew of USS Enterprise, December 19, 2003, with the joke "We had gay burglars the other night. They broke in and rearranged the furniture."
Photo: Photographer's Mate Airman Milosz Reterski - Wikimedia Commons

In an excellent article in the Los Angeles Times, reporters Laura J. Nelson and Caitlin Owens articulated how to recognize signs of suicide. They spoke with Roderick Shaner, medical director for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, who said that “A bad turn of events that occurs is more likely to be a trigger of suicide, rather than the cause of it” Shaner said.
The most important indicator to watch for, he said, and “the one that is most often ignored,” is whether someone has discussed ending their life, especially if they have not discussed it before. If the person approaches the topic with ambivalence, he said, that should still be a warning sign.
Other key factors that can indicate suicidal thoughts include:
    • A history of suicide attempts
    • A pattern of substance abuse, particularly if someone has recently relapsed after a period of sobriety
    • Expressing a sense of hopelessness, including saying that their problems are insurmountable or that people would be better off without them. “Hopelessness often prevents people from seeking help, because they believe that help would be pointless,” Shaner said. “That is never the case.”
    • Signs of depression. These can include, but aren’t limited to, fatigue, insomnia, apathy toward daily activities, sudden weight changes, loss of attention span, or uncontrollable anger or sadness.
    • Sudden calmness, especially for those who have contemplated suicide before. “Sometimes that indicates that someone has wrestled with the idea of suicide, and made a decision to end their life,” Shaner said.
    • Setting affairs in order. Someone who has displayed any of the previous behaviors and is suddenly interested in straightening out their finances or writing a new will may be contemplating suicide, Shaner said.
Friends and family who notice those warning signs should “keep lines of communication open” and should encourage their loved one to seek treatment, Shaner said. 
“Be present to support them, not stigmatize them,” he said. “Constantly remind them that help is available. If necessary, reach out yourself to get them that help.” 
Hopelessness often prevents people from seeking help, because they believe that help would be pointless. That is never the case.- Roderick Shaner, medical director for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health 
Anyone who is contemplating suicide should reach out to loved ones and trusted professionals with mental health training, including physicians, therapists, counselors and clergy, said Dr. Karen Miotto, director of the UCLA Semel Institute’s Alcoholism and Addiction Medicine Service. 
“There’s a fear that somehow, if you talk about suicide, you’ll be putting the thought in people’s minds,” Miotto said. “If someone close to you is depressed or in a state of despair ... help them seek mental health attention.”
Depression or substance abuse or suicidal ideation or a major depressive disorder are medical conditions that require medical attention. Talk to your family doctor, because they help. The vast majority of people who seek mental health treatment are treated successfully.

If you aren’t comfortable speaking with a family physician, you can call a suicide hotline 24 hours a day.
If you want an alternative to calling those hotlines, you can send a text message to the Crisis Text Line.
The San Francisco Bay Area lost one of our favorite sons on Monday, and the loss is stunning and heartfelt because he enriched our lives for so many years.

RIP Robin Williams. Gone but never forgotten.

straight talk in a queer world.            jiveinthe415.com

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