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Why Robin Williams’ death is hitting close to home

By: Dr. Shalini Forbis

Robin Williams’ recent death by suicide has been a leading feature in the news this week.

I think that the idea of someone who has brought so much joy into homes through his comedic roles being in such a depression as to commit suicide cannot help but capture the attention of the American consciousness.

Having said that, this tragedy hits a little close to home for me.  Just over a year ago, my family experienced the shock and grief that is associated with the suicide of a loved one.

I have watched family members, including myself, struggle through the grieving process.  It is not the same as other forms I have experienced to date.  Clearly, at that time, I was not ready to address the issue of suicide in a blog posting and I am not sure I am ready today but I feel the importance of this issue tugging at my heart.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with 38,000 suicides and more than a million attempts in 2010. Older adults have the highest rates of suicide.  However, suicide does occur in children and teens.  Please remember, as the NIH says, suicide “is however, a sign of extreme distress”. One thing to be aware of are potential risk factors for suicide such as depression or other mental disorders, substance abuse disorders, attempted suicide in the past, family history of suicide, family violence and exposure to suicidal behaviors (such as family members or peers).  Remember that these are risk factors that may increase risk of suicide.

These risk factors taken in conjunction with warning signs may be of help.

11 warning signs of suicide:

  1. Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  2. Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  3. Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  4. Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  5. Talking about being a burden to others
  6. Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  7. Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  8. Sleeping too little or too much
  9. Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  10. Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  11. Displaying extreme mood swings.

 

If you are concerned about a loved one, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Do not leave the person alone
  2. Try to remove things from the immediate surroundings such as weapons, medications, etc.
  3. Get help for the person or convince him/her to seek help.
    1. Take them to the emergency department,
    2. They can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
    3. If they have a mental health provider, have them call their provider.

 

The goal is to attempt to keep the person safe until a mental health professional can get the person the help they need.

In addition, if you have experienced the suicide of a loved one and are having trouble coping with this loss, please consider counseling to assist you with your grief.  You are not alone, it is estimated that 7 percent of the US population knew someone who died of suicide in the past year.

For help:

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

http://www.youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

For statistics:

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/consequences.html

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-a-major-preventable-mental-health-problem-fact-sheet/index.shtml

About Dr. Forbis

Dr. Forbis is a pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s Hospital and a mother to two girls. As part of the award-winning “Dr. Mom Squad,” Dr. Forbis blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health.

 

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