My first memory of Williams was as “Mork” on “Mork and Mindy.” I literally grew up watching the show and enjoyed his energy, wit, and precise humor. As I grew up, I watched any and everything he was in. My favorite characters were “Genie” in “Aladdin” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
The suicide of Robin Williams is sad—just as the suicide of anyone is profoundly agonizing. The New York Times reports that suicide rates continue to go up in our country. In 2013, more people died from suicide than in car accidents. According to the non-profit group, Suicide.org, 750,000 people attempt suicide every year in the United States.
The harsh reality is that suicide affects people that we know. Studies show that 14% of high school students have thought about suicide and 7% will attempt suicide. The elderly and terminally ill are especially at risk. There is also an increase in suicide rates for white males over 50 years of age.
We don’t know Robin Williams and we could not have helped him. But we know our family, friends, and acquaintances and we all have the ability to help them. Here are some suggestions:
1. Listen to Hurting People
The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. At any given moment, 9% of adults are depressed and almost 4% are severely depressed. People you know are hurting and dealing with depression. Learn to be a sympathetic listener.
2. Offer Hope and Affirmation
A person dealing with depression and contemplating suicide has reached the conclusion that their life has no value or meaning. As a result, they quit trying and they quit living. Once they have reached this point they see no value in living. The pain they feel overshadows anything positive in their life.
You can help by offering them hope. Let them know that things will get better, that they are loved and needed, and offering to help them.
3. Take Them to Find Help
As a pastor and friend I have dealt with about 30 suicidal friends and church members. When I find out they have thought about suicide I personally take them to the hospital or counselor, and/or I wait with them until a family member can come get them and take them for medical and professional help.
4. See Them Through to Healing
I am a pastor, so naturally, I believe their ultimate hope and peace is found through a loving and forgiving relationship with Jesus Christ. Beyond that, there is still much healing that needs to take place in the life of your friend. Continue to listen and affirm them. Pray with them and remind them to attend their counselling appointments and to take healthy steps to cope with stress in life.
If you or a friend are struggling with depression or having thoughts concerning suicide, please reach out to a friend, teach, pastor, or call 1-800-273-8255.