I posted this on my Facebook page last week and decided to share it.
I haven’t written about Robin Williams, but I saw an article and thought about how clueless people are about suicidal ideation. RW admitted to having bipolar depression. It is very likely, given his history, that he started having symptoms in this late teens or 20’s. He was 63 years old, so he has been plagued with this cruel disease for 40+ years. Alcohol and cocaine didn’t cause his depression; they were coping mechanisms for the depression and anxiety.
In major depressives, suicidal thoughts are not something you get when you had a bad day. They just linger in your brain for days, weeks, and sometimes years. Fighting these thoughts everyday slowly strips layers off of you, so that even if you seek treatment and the thoughts stop, you are a shell of your former self. It’s like you’re holding up something heavy, then someone comes along to take over the load. You are no longer holding it up, but your arms still ache.
A few years ago, I watched his interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio. He would talk seriously for just a minute and then launch into his one-of-a-kind improv. I felt like I could see something in him that day—a deep sadness. I was concerned about him, knowing of his issues with depression. When I read that he had died, I was shocked. I just kept seeing that interview in my head and remembering him.
Depressed people are very good at wearing masks.
If you have a troubled friend, ask them privately if they are having suicidal thoughts. They will likely say “no” many times before saying “yes,” but you have to keep asking. It gets easier when you admit it aloud and can speak frankly about it. After a while you can have the conversation without tears. That’s how you help someone. Talking about suicide is beyond difficult, but it’s so important.