Life Mental Health

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Dr Ciara: Robin Williams' death has made us all think

Suicide affects 500 Irish families every year, including Ciara Kelly's own family. But for those thinking of suicide, there is help.

Dr Ciara Kelly

Published 24/08/2014 | 00:00

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TALENTED, FUNNY MAN: In the case of Robin Williams, who ostensibly had so much to live for, it’s very hard to comprehend suicide. But mental health difficulties don’t respect fame or fortune — in fact, those two things bring their own pressures
TALENTED, FUNNY MAN: In the case of Robin Williams, who ostensibly had so much to live for, it’s very hard to comprehend suicide. But mental health difficulties don’t respect fame or fortune — in fact, those two things bring their own pressures

I've been thinking a lot about Robin Williams, who died almost two weeks ago now, after taking his own life. It's incredibly sad that such a talented, funny man - who brought so much joy to so many, felt that there was no other option.

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I'm hesitant to write about suicide, as I don't think I've ever taken part in a public discussion about it without somebody being upset by it. It's an intensely sensitive subject - such is the raw hurt and anger that is left in those bereaved by suicide. But in the days following his death, I spoke to several people who could identify all too closely with his actions, which makes me think we need to keep talking about it.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 12:  Flowers are placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star and the hand and footprint in memory of actor Robin Williams on August 12, 2014 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
Flowers are placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star and the hand and footprint in memory of actor Robin Williams on August 12, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

It's a tragedy for any of us to lose someone we love. It's even worse to lose them by their own hand. It seems so futile, such a waste of a life. It always seems like it could and should be preventable.

In the case of Robin Williams, who ostensibly had so much to live for, it's very hard to comprehend suicide. But mental health difficulties don't respect fame or fortune - in fact, those two things bring their own pressures. So no one really knows the suffering that anyone else endures. And when you're in that dark place, where you can't see a future that isn't bleak, that doesn't involve a daily struggle against your demons, you're vulnerable to the idea that your life is worthless and that ending it might ease your pain. Because that's why people take their own lives - to end the mental anguish that torments them.

What I'd say to anyone who may be in that position, is that bad times, just like good times, will pass; that depression twists your thinking into believing that it won't get better - when it always does; that nothing we worry about ever turns out as badly as the catastrophes we fear in our futures. And that your life is never worthless. If you could but foresee the havoc your death would wreak in those around you, you would know that.

I'd also tell them that there is help available. If you get to that point, where you feel that you can't struggle on any more, suicide is not the solution. What you actually need is a break from your suffering. A time out from life - not an end to it. If you're contemplating suicide, a stay in hospital - something people rarely think of for themselves - can help restore you. If you're that low, what you need is somewhere safe you can rest. Somewhere you don't have to struggle on but can down tools for a while. Somewhere you can pick yourself up and rebuild your mental strength. That's the solution. Somewhere you can hole up, until you get beyond that dark place. Because you can get beyond it.

About 500 people die in Ireland every year from suicide. That's 500 families devastated. In my own family, my young cousin took his own life some years ago, followed later that same year by my aunt - his mother. Such inexplicable sadness. Such loss. Such pain can never be expunged. I don't think a day goes by, that they are not thought of. Those bereaved by suicide are sadly a growing group. Almost broken by it, in my experience they bear their sadness mainly by understanding and empathising with the terrible suffering of the deceased. But it's a hard road.

If those who have died, could look back and see the impact their death has had on those left behind - I think they would know that their life had value and meaning. I think they'd see that suicide wasn't the only path left to them. And I think if they could have their time over again, things might be different.


@ciarakellydoc

TALENTED, FUNNY MAN: In the case of Robin Williams, who ostensibly had so much to live for, it’s very hard to comprehend suicide. But mental health difficulties don’t respect fame or fortune — in fact, those two things bring their own pressures
TALENTED, FUNNY MAN: In the case of Robin Williams, who ostensibly had so much to live for, it’s very hard to comprehend suicide. But mental health difficulties don’t respect fame or fortune — in fact, those two things bring their own pressures
Actor Billy Crystal (R) speaks in tribute to the late Robin Williams onstage at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Actor Billy Crystal (R) speaks in tribute to the late Robin Williams onstage at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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