The suicide of Robin Williams and most recently Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave, were both terrible and tragic.   I have heard the typical responses.

  • “He had everything.  What the hell?”
  • “Man, I do not understand that.”
  • “Kind of selfish, if you ask me.”

I didn’t ask,  But that is a good question that I didn’t ask. 
“Why did they (and 44,000 other Americans every year (121 per day)) kill themselves?”

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

Quick math:  1.1 Million Americans attempt suicide.

Back to the question:
What makes most of the 1.1 Million American’s attempt suicide?

The Answer:  Usually it is Depression.

By the way, you don’t have to lower your head, look around and whisper that word.  Just say it.

1 in 15 people (6.7% of the population) 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 benefit?
  • Ever see anyone wearing a depression awareness ribbon?
  • Ever seen a “Depression Survivor” T-shirt?

Nope.  Not yet at least.

Here is the big(ger) question:
-Have you ever asked anyone if they have depression or are 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.  We mention depression only when forced and only in solemn reverence to those who have passed away from the world of bliss.   WTF.  We are Right Here.

 For the uninitiated, Depression is like having a second personality.  I look back at the times when I was really down with the Black Dog 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.  The Black Dog is creepy.

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

  • Accept that they are "Fine"
    • If you ask and they give you an answer like “I’m Fine” and you just don’t believe it, you are not off the hook.   Keep trying.  Pay attention.
  • Don’t try to fix someone who may be depressed. 
    • They are not broken anymore than you are not broken because of a bad shoulder or reflux.
  • 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.
  • “Don’t dwell on it.”
    • Again.  Genius.  Just use the unbroken leg.  Gotcha.  Problem Solved
  • Drink.
    • Drinking while depressed is like giving bricks do a drowning person.

What to do or say:

  • “What is going on?”  Then listen
  • “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.