It is shocking news that Oscar winning actor Robin Williams died of a suspected suicide. He made the world laugh, but couldn’t lighten his own load through his humor. However, his untimely death is raising awareness about suicide prevention. Jolie Lee reports for USA TODAY.
About 39,500 people died of suicide in 2011. That’s more deaths than from murder, prostate cancer or car accidents, according to the American Association of Suicidology.
Some of the most frequently cited risk factors for suicide include mental disorders, depression, a prior suicide attempt, family history and exposure to other people’s suicidal behavior, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Williams had several risk factors, including depression, a history of drug and alcohol use and a 2009 heart surgery, which increases the risk for depression, said Jeffrey Lieberman, professor and chairman of psychiatry at New York’s Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
So how do you know when a loved one needs help?
According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), some of the warning signs of suicide are:
• Talking about wanting to die. About 50%-75% of people who attempt suicide tell someone about it first.
• Finding ways to kill themselves, like hoarding medicine or buying a gun.
• Losing interest in things and becoming withdrawn from family and friends.
What to do
If you know someone who is thinking about suicide, you should not leave them by themselves. Also, remove anything that might be harmful to the person, such as guns, according to NIH.
“Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911,” NIH says on its website.