Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Goodwill Hunting, Aladdin, Dead Poet’s Society- all of these films have one actor in common (take a wild guess). It’s been just over 2 years since comedic master Robin Williams ended his life. His death, however, was not in vain because it opened up a discussion about one of the topics frequently tiptoed around: suicide. Although the discussion concerning Williams has simmered, I feel the need to stir the pot by bringing up the unthinkable once again. The suicide rate in the United States has soared to a 30-year high, yet the problem is still inadequately addressed. What is it about this topic that makes us so uncomfortable? For me, at least, it’s the thought that someone felt so alone or trapped in this world that they felt leaving it would be better than pushing forward. How could the world be so twisted that someone could feel that way? Also, how do we figure out the warning signs and prevention methods associated with such a tragedy?
I don’t think there is any set of signs that could accurately predict when someone is facing the chilling thought of ending their life. However, across the board I have heard of some similarities in cases. People may talk of feeling worthless or trapped alone. Some may even out rightly say they wish to kill themselves. Yet it may not even be in their speech. Maybe it’s in the way they act. Withdrawn or reckless behavior, giving away their belongings, or aggression could all warn of the thoughts running through a loved one’s head. I’m not saying if your friend gives you a shirt that she doesn’t want anymore or someone is irritable because they are having a bad day that they wish to end their lives but these signs also can not be ignored or taken lightly.
I think the best prevention method is simple; care about others. Use the big heart each one of us have (if we allow ourselves to have it) and be kind and gracious to one another. Don’t be cruel or rude for the sake of being cruel or rude. Stop worrying about social status or what’s cool and think about how your actions and decisions affect another. I’m not trying to preach to the choir, but I felt it needed to be said.
Robin Williams once offered this sage advice in my all-time favorite film, The Dead Poet’s Society, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” I am going to twist this quote to fit the context and say, your words and actions affect another. Be kind, you never know who’s hurting.
If you or someone you know is facing the issue of suicide or depression, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for confidential help. Call 1-800-273-8255 (Available 24 hours everyday).