I’ve thought a lot about Robin Williams over the past few weeks. It is especially heartbreaking to me that someone who made so many millions of people laugh, who had family and friends who adored him, could feel so alone and broken and unable to ask for help. He bore this pain largely by himself, when anyone who cared about him–as well as millions of admirers who did not know him–would have gladly done whatever they could to ease his suffering.
Make no mistake: someone contemplating suicide is suffering in the deepest way possible. To those in that position, suicide looks like a way out of what seems like the insurmountable, a respite from getting through the torture and effort of living. Every. Single. Day. It is not done as an act of selfishness, it is a relentless pursuit of relief.
I’ve known several people who have taken their own lives. The brutality of death in this way is catastrophic: one person’s pain ends while the pain of survivors begins, so raw and unrelenting. Psychiatric assessments and psychopharmacological interventions aside, too often there is no answer to the unanswerable question of ‘Why?’
I also believe this affects all of us, if not personally, then as countrymen. In the United States, 22 veterans a day kill themselves, according to a 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs study.
One of the recent “letters to the editor” I read (about the aftermath of suicide) included a link to a survivors’ network. I was naive about how many impressive websites and resources exist on this topic; there hasn’t been nearly enough media coverage about coping with and surviving suicidal ideation and depression.
If Robin Williams’ death contributed anything positive in its wake, I would like to think it is taking this terrible and important topic out of the shadows and shame of ‘polite company’ and into the glare of awareness and truth. We can’t begin to fix this problem as a society if we are afraid to talk about it.
I encourage you to read, explore and share these websites. There are certainly others, but these three I found to be especially compelling.
- Best Day Project. Pledge to have the best day of your life, every day.
- What Happens Now. Life after suicidal thinking.
- Live Through This. Portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, as told by those survivors.