Robin Williams: Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Substance abuse And Suicide

robin-williams7878It’s hard for many people to understand how someone can be “successful”, and “wealthy” and still be miserable and end up committing suicide, but mental illness and substance abuse doesn’t care about socio-economic status.

There are countless examples of wealthy and famous celebrities who have taken their lives in the face of mental illness and/or addiction. 

Still, many are shocked that someone so funny and loved as Robin Williams, age 63, who’s been battling bipolar disorder, severe depression, drug abuse and alcoholism for a large part of his life, would end up taking his own life. 

For anyone who has ever felt the pain of severe depression knows that once it has a grip on them, it’s almost like being covered in darkness where they can’t see past their failures, no matter how successful they are.

The only thing that they see, hear and think about are their missed opportunities, mistakes and what seems like the bleakness of the future. It doesn’t matter if they are happily married, have accomplished many goals, all they see are their failures. They forget all of their successes and things they should be proud of and just become consumed with feelings of worthlessness, shame and guilt.

When in a deep depression, suicidal thoughts may creep in and become overwhelming to the point where the person feels like they are a burden to the world, especially those close to them. They feel like their spouses, children and friends would be better off without them. Their view of reality becomes severely distorted.

In Robin Williams case, he was married, had children, had a long successful career, was loved by millions, yet he battled addiction, bipolar disorder and depression. At some point in the midst of his depression, the thoughts of being worthless and a burden became overwhelming. 

It also speaks to the point that depression and suicide doesn’t go away at a certain point of wealthiness or happiness. It’s a disease.

Robin Williams is no different than anyone else who suffers from a severe mental illness. About 90% of people who commit suicide have an undiagnosed, untreated or undertreated mental illness. 

Robin Williams was also in the demographic of those highly at risk of suicide which are white, middle aged men with health problems. Robin Williams had been suffering from a heart condition and it’s possible that the thought of losing control of his life, his quality of life or losing his life in general to a physical illness, increased his risk of suicide. 

More than 38,000 Americans commit suicide each year and while depression can last a life time, suicidal thoughts are usually temporary and the act of suicide itself is often impulsive. If we can deter someone from committing suicide they usually will move on from the desire to kill themselves even though the depression continues. 

According to the American Association of Suicidology:

  • 39,518 people died by suicide in the U.S. (2011)
  • 108.3 per day
  • 1 person every 13.3 minutes
  • 3.6 male deaths for each female death by suicide

Comparison to other highly publicized causes of death per year:

  • Homicide 16,238
  • Prostate Cancer 32,050
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents 35,303
  • Suicide 39,518
  • Breast Cancer 39,520

By age:

  • Middle age (45-64 years): 18.6 per 100,000,
  • Elderly: 15.3 per 100,000

*Teens (15-24) is 11 per 100,000*

*The rate for middle aged has been increasing and surpassed the rate for elderly a few years ago*

If you are anyone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, the national suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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