The suicide of Robin Williams and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave, were terrible and tragic. Every suicide is.  

I have heard the typical responses.

  • “He had everything.  Why was he depressed?”
  • “Man, I do not understand that.”
  • “Kind of selfish, if you ask me.”

I didn’t ask you.  But that is a good question that I didn’t ask. 

“Why did they and 44,000 other Americans every year kill themselves?”

Just for perspective, more people die by suicide than homicide or car accidents.  And, for every one person that dies by suicide, 25 people try.

Quick math:  1.1 Million Americans attempt suicide.

That is enough to fill every seat in Neyland Stadium (home to the University of Tennessee Volunteer football team) almost 11 times.  I don’t think UT has done this in 10 years… combined.

What makes most of the 1.1 Million American’s attempt suicide?

The Answer:  Usually it’s Depression.

1 in 15 people have or have had some kind of fight with depression but do you ever hear anyone talk about it?

  • Have you ever been to a “Depression Prevention and Awareness”  fund raiser?
  • Ever see anyone wearing a depression awareness ribbon?
  • Ever seen a “Depression Survivor” T-shirt?

Probably not.

Have you ever asked anyone “Are you depressed?”
Probably not.
Why Not?
Because, right now, talking about depression is right up there with racist jokes and the merits of Nazism.  If people talk about it, it is short lived, in hushed tones and using code words as if saying it out loud makes it more contagious.

If you have never experience Depression, it is like having a second personality.  I look back at the times when I was really down and wonder what was wrong with me.  How could I have been so angry and sad?  On the contrary, when I am depressed, I can’t think of how I was ever happy.  They are two different worlds.  Yea.  It is really weird if you have never experienced it.

What NOT to do or say to someone you think might be depressed:

  • Accept that they are “Fine”
    • If they give you an answer like “I’m Fine” and you know that they are not, you are not off the hook.   Keep trying.
  • Try to fix them.
    • They are not broken.  They are sick.  They are hurting. 
  • Nothing. 
    • Does your torn tendon go away if you just ignore it? 
  • “Be more positive.” 
    • Right.  Thanks. You are a genius.  Why didn’t I think of that?!?!
  • “What have you got to be depressed about.  Your life is great.” 
    • Yeah.  That is the problem.  My life is great and I’m still depressed.  That means I am the problem.
  • Drink.
    • Drinking while depressed is like giving bricks do a drowning person.

What you should do or say:

  • “What is going on?”  Then listen without trying to solve their problems.
  • “I am here.” Then be there. 
  • Get them out and moving.  Do something distracting and fun.
  • Get them talking.
  • Pay attention.
  • Just be there.  Stay with them.

What would you do if you could be in the room with Robin Williams or Chris Cornell before they killed themselves?  Do that.

If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. Help is available, and you can speak with someone today. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are also options for texting and/or chatting online.