Those of us who knew the work of Robin Williams were shocked and saddened to hear that the comedian took his own life this week. On film and stage, he was non-stop funny, but inside he was waging a long battle with depression and substance abuse, which are often contributing factors in suicide.
Do you know that here in Brazil there is free, 24-hour phone, Skype, chat, and email assistance for people in emotional crisis? A person can dial 141 to receive immediate help and support from trained volunteers, and you do not need to leave your name.
The common element in almost all cases of suicide is depression, and often the person becomes so consumed by depression that it is hard for them to imagine the good things in life. Depression is an illness, just like a physical illness, and it is important not to shame or blame or feel embarrassed if you or someone you know is depressed.
Depression often has a genetic component—it can run in families—but sometimes just one person in a family is afflicted, just like any disease. Depression can strike anyone, of any social class or occupation; people with jobs, and people not employed; single people and people that seem happily married with children.
Speaking about Robin William’s plight, the president of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Paul Summergrad, said “It’s very important that we stop seeing these illnesses as faults and blames, and see them as what they are, medical conditions, genetic conditions, brain disorders which require appropriate diagnosis, treatment, care and support.”
According to the World Health Organization, Brazil ranks 73rd in the world in the incidence of suicides. In comparison, both the U.S. (rank 43) and Germany (rank 33) have a higher rate. According to professors from USP writing in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, the suicide rate in Brazil fell significantly from 1996 to 2002, but since 2002 the rate has been rising, particularly among young to middle-age men. Had these individuals sought help, likely they would not have resorted to self-harm. The key is that depressed people need to know that help is available and a better future is possible.
People who are depressed are not helped by others telling them things like “just get over it” or that they are weak or flawed, or just “be happy”. It is like telling a person with diabetes that they just need to “get over it”. People struggling with depression need support, and what cures them is counseling by a mental health professional and/or medication. There are many modern medications that are of great help, and new ones are constantly being developed.
If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress or at risk of suicide, here are some resources:
Anywhere in Brazil, dial 141 for help anytime (you do not have to give your name)
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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)