I’ll never forget the day I found out that Robin Williams had died by suicide.
The thing is he wasn’t a childhood icon to me like he was for other people my age. I barely remember Mrs. Doubtfire; I’ve never actually watched Aladdin. And yet, I read the news that day and was hit with a pang of sadness and more. It’s always tragic when someone loses their life. It’s worse when it’s a suicide. It’s the absolute worst when it’s someone like Robin Williams.
Don’t get me wrong; every suicide is equally upsetting. But Robin Williams was someone who seemed to have it all: a loving family, a passion he turned into a successful career, enough money to afford treatment. From anyone’s outside perspective, Robin Williams would have had no reason to kill himself. Yet, he did. Just like many other suicide victims, in the end, the pain was too much.
The lesson here? No one is safe from suicide.
There is no logic involved in suicidal thoughts. Someone could be surrounded by loving people, excelling in their career and still feel like their drowning in their thoughts. Someone could have the opposite of all that and suicide would still not be a logical answer. Ending your life, along with your chances of changing your situation, and causing pain to those who knew you is not a sound decision. Especially since no one can confirm that the afterlife, if there is one, is better.
By the end of 2017, according to World Health Organization, around 800 000 people worldwide will have committed suicide. Who knows how many will have attempted it. People often say: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” But when you’re in that mindset, it really does feel permanent. It feels like a tar pit that slowly sucks you in. It’s not until you can’t breathe that you realize how bad it is.
Fortunately, suicide is 100% preventable.
The problem, nowadays, is that we act too late. We shame people with mental health problems but cry over the people who have killed themselves. They’re the same, just at different situations. The best thing to remember is that no one really wants to kill themselves. They just want the pain to stop and, for them, suicide is the only option. The perfect solution to that problem is to decrease stressors in their life and increase resources. However, even if you are not currently experiencing suicidal thoughts, being informed and one step ahead never hurts.
Understand the causes
The biggest cause of suicide is mental illness. Most psychiatric disorders have suicidal ideation listed as one of their serious symptoms. Of course, that isn’t helped by symptoms that increase these suicidal thoughts – like lack of sleep and isolation.
Suicide can be linked to numerous problems outside of mental health. They are risk factors that increase people’s chances of being suicidal – physical illnesses, recent experience of loss, substance abuse, alcoholism and recent suicidal threats.
Equip yourself with resources
I truly believe that mental health education should be required. Even if it isn’t, the internet has loads of information on suicide. Knowing the causes and warning signs could help you save someone before it’s too late. Having helplines and coping methods nearby could be useful if you are ever in a crisis.
Continue the conversation
Staying quiet means allowing ourselves to never learn and keep losing people to suicide. People used to have this old-fashioned idea that talking about suicide would influence others to follow suit. However, talking about it will help us make it less taboo. It’ll allow us to have an honest conversation about something that affects most of us.
About Fatou Balde
Fatou Balde is a floater in life, currently dipping her toes in communications and psychology to see what she might pursue as a career. She's been depressed since 12, and desperately trying to get better since 16.