Suicide Can Be Contagious

Australians Urged To Watch Out For Loved Ones

The suicide of Robin Williams this week has shocked many Australians. Such a wonderful man, funny, successful and with a close family. Many are asking “Why then would someone who appears to have it all commit suicide?”

While the reasons for Williams’ suicide may never be fully understood, it highlights, yet again, the vulnerability all people can sometimes feel and the seclusion that befalls those who choose not to share how they are feeling. While many people may experience an issue or deep problem, it is the high profile celebrities who are seen to be superior and more successful that often suffer the most, and money has nothing to do with preventing their darkness.

Many high profile people, including the Hollywood elite, often find it difficult to discuss issues with friends for fear of disclosure or betrayal, and many find it difficult to find a therapist they can really trust with personal matters, one who won’t sell their stories to the highest paying tabloid.

The shock the public feels when celebrities such as Charlotte Dawson and now Robin Williams simply cannot live with their demons any longer, can be overwhelming. I have worked with a number of high profile people, and media personalities. These people, while successful and leaders in their field, can experience isolation due to their celebrity status.

Celebrities often fear their deepest secrets may escape and be world news. Their feelings of trust, compromise and fear can overwhelm them, leaving them feeling desperately alone. Unfortunately what can happen after a high profile person such as Williams suicides’ is a domino effect that can become epidemic as people feel ‘if he couldn’t manage then how can I?’ and as a society, we need to be extra cautious of our loved ones during this time.

Sometimes there are few signs to indicate suicide is on their mind and these can include:

  1. Contacting family members to say hello and goodbye, especially if they haven’t spoken to them for a while
  2. Removing themselves from those close to them and becoming more isolated and sad
  3. Giving away some of their items and losing interest in things
  4. Not making plans for next year or even next month
  5. Continually looking lost, quiet, tired, upset or vacant
  6. Talking about suicide or saying you are better off without them around

After working with many media personalities I can understand how difficult it is for them to trust and reveal their inner feelings and problems. When they find someone they are comfortable with and trust they can often work through their emotions without judgement and reach a good and healthy outcome.

I urge all Australians to be aware of those around them and has some timely advice for those who may be concerned about the welfare of loved ones or friends.

If you have someone that is falling into this depressive state and you are fearful for their safety, speak to them, take them to a therapist and support your friend or family member. If anyone you know is showing these types of signs, speak to them, do not leave them alone.

They just want to feel better, normal and happy again; they just don’t know how to right now. A good therapist can help and support the person and family, set a plan to work towards something, check in on them daily if necessary and work towards the goal a step at a time.

While we often think there is a direct reason for a suicide attempt, such as a relationship breakup, loss of job, unemployment or trauma, there are many suicide attempts where none of these things are relevant. This is what makes it so difficult. Noticing posture of the person you are concerned about can sometime give away their feeling of sadness.

A person in a depressed state can display slumped shoulders, low head position, less engaged eye contact and slower gait. My best advice is to remain attentive, talk, ask questions and obtain professional help if there is any concern about the person.  The Mental Health Department at local hospitals may also be able to help.


Share this: