On Robin Williams’ suicide and preventing suicide in Georgia
By Ann Wilder, M.S., M.B.A.
We often say, “life is worth living,” but to a person filled with feelings of despair, hopelessness, or regret, these are hollow words. Many kinds of emotional and physical pain can lead to thoughts of suicide. Approximately 1,100 Georgia families are impacted by a completed suicide each year and many more impacted by suicide attempts. In the darkest moments, a person can often feel as though the pain and unhappiness is permanent, no solution will ever come, and no change is possible.
Suicide affects every demographic, regardless of race, faith, age, economic status or sexual orientation. Attorneys, business executives, police officers, teachers, retirees and veterans all can be affected. Young and older adults alike, the people we lose to suicide are someone’s parent, spouse, child, sibling, neighbor or coworker – and we may not even know about their struggles. The good news is: there is help and hope available at all times from many resources. The risk for suicide is highest when someone experiences a lot of loss in a small amount of time. The risk increases if there is a history of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or alcohol and drug use.
So how do we prevent suicide in Georgia, currently ranked No. 12 in the nation for the highest suicide rate? Every illness has risk factors, including mental illness. Risk factors include previous suicide attempts, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, a family history of attempted or completed suicide, serious medical condition or pain, or alcohol and drug abuse. The key to preventing any disease is recognizing those risk factors and warning signs. It is no different when trying to prevent someone from feeling so helpless that they decide to take their own life. Positive connections and other protective factors also help people when coping with the stressful and discouraging life events. Know there is a national hotline available around the clock at no cost to the caller as well. Simply dial 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). There are always people standing by who care and will help.
In the wake of Robin Williams’ death, let’s work together to lower the rate of suicide, now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. For those who have already suffered the loss of a loved one by suicide, my heart goes out to you and I invite you to join us on the fourth Thursday of every month from 6:30-8 p.m. at Eastside Medical Center’s south campus (2160 Fountain Drive, Snellville) for our Survivors of Suicide support group. Together, we can heal and together, we can provide help to those who desperately need it before it is too late. For more information, call 770-322-4470 or email GwinnettSOS@gmail.com.
Ann Wilder is the program director for behavioral health at Eastside Medical Center and serves as the vice chairperson of the Gwinnett Suicide Prevention Coalition.