Today, with the death of Robin Williams it has given us all a great deal to think abut. Here are some of my thoughts.
The end of someone’ life is always sad, always a bit scary, both for family and friends. Having worked with potential suicide victims, those who have tried and failed to take their own lives, I am amazed at the frankness that these people can talk about what drove them to this place. Most of the people I have worked with who have tried to kill themselves are not selfish and certainly didn’t do whatever they did, for attention. They tried to let go of life because Life, in some way or another, was just too hard for them. Too painful. Too horrible. The only way forward when someone feels this far down, is death. That’s true depression.
People will say, ‘why don’t they think of their family? Their children or parents?’ The people I have worked with talk about having a kind of tunnel vision, nothing either side of their view, just an end to their pain. If they didn’t feel this way, if those they loved came into their thoughts, they would never be able to commit suicide, every one who tried would have failed. They feel a calm that they possibly have either never felt before or haven’t felt for a long long time.
People take this final traumatic step for many reasons. Some to end physical pain. Some to end emotional pain. Some whose lives are devastated and they feel that life is not worth living. They can feel ‘in the way’ that ‘others will be better off without’ them. Others can see no way to leave a relationship but by dying.
Most of these people suffer, in some way, from a killer disease if not treated. Depression.
We don’t like to talk about it. Still very much a taboo subject for many. But until we do talk it, depression I mean, others will certainly die.
I have been touched by suicide. A young family member took his own life and devastated those he loved and who loved him. Was he selfish? No. Was he ill? Yes. Perhaps we didn’t see it at the time, but years later after training as a psychotherapist, I would have seen the signs, read the signals. Maybe been able to help. Friends and family of suicide victims,often talk to me about wishing they had known and perhaps stopped the person from taking his own life. I was told, when it happened to us, in the family, that no matter what is said to the depressed person, if they are intent on taking their own life, they will.
It is also often said that if someone talks about committing suicide, they won’t do it. Wrong again. That is why I get so cross when people keep saying they are suicidal when they actually want attention. I know this in itself is an illness, a cry for help. But sometimes there are those who keep saying it, then the following day are talking about what shoes to buy. They need to be careful, they might just cry wolf once too often.
So, today I ,like many of you, feel very sad. Sad for the end of a life, of a man who gave us all so much enjoyment, was so bad in his mind that he decided to leave this world. Maybe there could be a legacy apart from his humour, his acting, his funnyman ways, that can also help others. I hope his legacy is that he was a strong man, using humour, maybe to ‘pretend’ to himself and the world that he was ‘okay’. He certainly succeeded fooling most of us. I hope he is remembered for this and not for the star who committed suicide. I hope people don’t think of him as selfish, but as a man who was plagued with the horrible illness, Depression. Maybe as he is and was so well loved, we could still talk about him but also be aware that when someone says to you, ‘I’m okay’ when you feel there is something wrong. When you know life is hard for them, that you ask again and listen to the answers. Be aware that Depression is a well hidden illness and anyone can suffer from it. Let Robin William’s life and death help us to understand the seriousness of this illness and not expect sufferers to ‘pull themselves together’. He couldn’t, they can’t. We could all be victims of the huge sadness that depression brings. I have been there, I have been there and it is not a place to treat lightly. Let us ask the question ‘how are you?’ and listen to the answer. Encourage the person in front of you to talk. If we all change our stance on this illness, understand it, help sufferers in some way. If because this well loved, well known man has taken his own life, when he seemingly, to those outside of his direct circle, had everything, highlights this killer disease and makes us more aware, his legacy will be great. Thank you for reading this.