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Robin Williams: Were there warning signs?

Robin Williams
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Depression is a disease that affects millions of Americans each day. In 2011 an American died every 13.3 minutes making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the US. So how can you tell if someone you love is approaching suicide? Robin Williams is being called "the funniest man in the world" throughout the Twitter and Facebook community. He was surrounded by a world in love with him and yet somehow managed to allegedly take his life. It is sadly too late for him, but his death does not have to be in vain. What were his warning signs? What was missed that could save someone's life?

There are many known risk factors for suicide, from alcoholism to a history of abuse; but the actual moment of suicide is what matters. The lists provided below offer an idea of how to see if someone you love is suffering from the disease. If they are, though, what can you do about it? How can you know the moment to take action?

What most don't know is that at the moment a depressed person is ready to commit suicide, they are often more cheerful than they have been. They can begin giving things away or spending quality time with loved ones. They have a lighter, more easy-going aura and this disarms those around them, making it seem they are getting better. THIS is when it's most important to act. They are happy because they know the pain is about to end. They have made a decision, and they are saying their goodbyes.

Most will not notice these warning signs until it's too late. Very often we feel uncomfortable talking about it, so we assume someone else will handle it. If someone you love has suffered any of the symptoms below, do not hesistate. Talk to them if you can. If you are not the person to reach out to them, encourage someone to take action on their behalf. Expecting them to ask for help is only blaming the victim. We are all responsible for each other. So how do you help?

  • Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • —Psychiatric hospital walk-in clinic
  • —Hospital emergency room
  • —Urgent care center/clinic
  • —Call 911

Some warning signs of depression:

Harvard's List:

  • a change in appetite that sometimes leads to weight loss or gain
  • insomnia or (less often) oversleeping
  • a slowdown in talking and performing tasks or, conversely, restlessness and an inability to sit still
  • loss of energy or feeling tired much of the time
  • problems concentrating or making decisions
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive, inappropriate guilt
  • thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide plans or attempts.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention List:

  • Talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun
  • Talking about a specific suicide plan
  • Feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Feeling trapped, desperate, or needing to escape from an intolerable situation
  • Having the feeling of being a burden to others
  • Feeling humiliated
  • Having intense anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Losing interest in things, or losing the ability to experience pleasure
  • Insomnia
  • Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family, and others
  • Acting irritable or agitated
  • Showing rage, or talking about seeking revenge for being victimized or rejected, whether or not the situations the person describes seem real

The most important thing you do may be asking the questions no one wants to ask. Don't be afraid, help is out there. For more information, please contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or if there is an emergency, call 911.

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