Suicide, Bipolar Disorder, and Robin Williams

robin williamsRobin Williams, a wonderful actor, had bipolar disorder. This mental illness does not discriminate.  I, a long with many, are saddened by his death.  I feel for his family and the many people who loved this outstanding man.

Bipolar disorder is a horrible disease that is often not discussed due to the stigma attached to mental illness. It needs to be talked about and hopefully over the next few weeks, people will learn more about this illness.

Many talented people over time have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Please see my  Pinterest site for 250 of them or see Famous People with Bipolar Disorder.

“Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes,” Williams told Terry Gross on the “Fresh Air” NPR radio show in 2006. “Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.” 9

Mania is defined by Merriam-Webster as excitement manifested by mental and physical hyperactivity, disorganization of behavior, and elevation of mood. 2  However, if you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, you know that this does not begin to explain mania.

While manic, these are some of the qualities a person displays:

  • They have  a lot of energy usually resulting in little to no sleep.
  • They often have poor judgement. For example, they may spend money they don’t have.
  • They think they can do just about everything (thoughts of grandeur, very high self-esteem) For example, they might think they are Jesus or can run for president.
  • They talk a lot and rapidly. My mom calls this “verbally overproductive”
  • They oftentimes become very religious. (They become obsessed in an unhealthy way.)
  • Racing thoughts: This makes it very hard to concentrate or finish simple tasks.
  • Easily get agitated or irritated
  • They get involved in a lot of activities. This poses a problem later if they get depressed because they are unable to follow thru.
  • Promiscuity
  • They often binge eat, drink, or do drugs. (Many times people are not diagnosed because they self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol. 4

Depression is defined by Merriam-Webster as a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way. 3

While depressed:

  • Hard to concentrate
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Isolation is common
  • Don’t enjoy things they used to enjoy
  • Lack of energy
  • Change in sleep (usually sleep more)
  • Change in eating habits
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Hard to make decisions
  • Sadness often not caused by anything in particular 5

Having bipolar disorder increases suicide risk by 15X more than that of the general  population. 1

Some facts on Suicide:

  • In the United States,  someone dies by suicide about every 14 minutes. 6
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. 6
  • Every day, approximately 99 Americans take their own life.Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent. 6
  • Over 60% of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent. 6
  • There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every suicide death. 6
  • Every year, more than 800 000 people worldwide die from suicide (a death every 40 seconds) 10

Although Robin Williams’s death is a tragedy, I hope something good can come from it. I hope more people learn about bipolar disorder and depression and mental illness is less stigmatized so that the rate of suicide goes down because people seek help.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please get help.

The Suicide Hotline in the United States: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Suicide Hotlines world-wide Hotlines

Suicide Warning signs: 9

Talking about suicide Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”
Seeking out lethal means Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

 

 

 

 

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