Suicide. How do we help our loved ones, especially our kids, who are talking about suicide? Who is at risk for suicide? What are some of the signs that someone might kill themselves, and how can we help them?

Robin Williams’ recent suicide was such a tragic, preventable event. A private memorial service was held for him yesterday, and many friends, family members and celebrities attended it. A lot of media asserted that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which lead to his suicidal death on August 11. But what about the millions of people who have Parkinson’s and do not commit suicide? (Maybe they weren’t depressed.) What about others who commit suicide, and do not have a terminal illness, or an incurable disease? (Depression is extremely common among those who have committed suicide, or are feeling suicidal.)

Some sources say that Williams also battled chronic anxiety and depression, which are treatable. He either chose not to follow-through with the professionals’ recommendations, or he did not seek help at all. Clinical depression is diagnosed through a collection of symptoms, including loss of pleasure in things once enjoyed, sadness more days than not, change in appetite, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of hopelessness, and more. The treatment of choice for Major Depression is talk therapy, and medication, preferably prescribed by a psychiatrist. Support groups can also be helpful, and certainly having friends and family who care are a great source of help.

Some groups who are at a higher risk of suicide include addicts, people with depression, those being bullied, inmates, and adolescents. Some signs of suicide in youth include a sudden drop in grades, sadness most days, isolating away from friends, disinterest in things once enjoyed, use of tobacco, drugs or alcohol, binge eating, binge drinking, and having unprotected sex. If a person has a plan, the risk for suicide is very high. Get help immediately.

If someone you know is talking about suicide, do something! Call 911 or the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)*. If you can, take the person to the nearest emergency room, for an evaluation by the professionals. Listen carefully to the person threatening suicide. Validate the emotions, but not the suicidal plan. For example, “I can tell you are really upset right now. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I care about you, and want to get you the help that you need. Let’s go to the emergency room to talk to a nurse or doctor about this.” Or, just call 911 yourself.

To learn more about depression, give me a call. I’ll be happy to help you or your loved one.

J. Faith Gallup, LCSW

*PS: A link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is here: