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7777By Mike Jacquart

Robin Williams’ death last week has had the mental health world abuzz about suicide awareness.  While I don’t remotely profess to be any sort of an expert on this issue, I have learned a great deal from work acquaintances who ARE highly knowledgeable in this area. Plus, I have suffered from depression myself… and more importantly… I have a good friend who took his life in 2008, and so it’s a topic that has touched me personally.

But…. just how willful an act is suicide? …Is it a coldly premeditated “coward’s way out” as some believe?… Or is it a tragic, yet inevitable conclusion to the individual’s severe mental state?

One thing I think people who haven’t experienced mental health issues don’t understand is how they’ll often lament that suicide was a selfish act the sufferer committed with little to no regard to the impact of his or her act on the survivors. That is certainly one way of looking at it.  But to anyone who’s had a mental illness, it is something that you want to be over…. and when it gets to be bad enough… I believe the individual is likely to do whatever is necessary to end the mental anguish… In other words, I don’t think someone who commits suicide wants so much to KILL themselves, as they are mainly desperate for their mental torment to be OVER…. and if that means taking their life, so be it.

I was very depressed and anxious during roughly a 3-year period from 1999 – 2002… but  I was blessed with finally getting the help I needed… If that hadn’t happened?……. Who knows?

I believe we still have a ways to go as a society to see mental despair as being as great to the person experiencing it …  as is physical pain.  We wouldn’t claim that someone who tore the ACL in their knee isn’t going through a lot of physical pain… So, why do so many continue to believe that the mental anguish going on in someone’s brain isn’t just as bad?

I am most certainly NOT trying to find an excuse for committing suicide!  Rather, like so many others, this past week has given me pause to try to better understand it.   There are lots of ways of getting involved to help with this cause… as noted in the previous blog post… “Stand Up for Robin Williams.” 

One method that employee assistance professionals can utilize to increase awareness about the importance of seeking help for mental health issues are full-color posters … such as those offered by Impact Publications .   (See the picture at above left; and go to the link  http://www.impact-publications.com   to check out and/or order posters.)

But however you go about it, be sure to reach out to someone you know who is depressed.  You never know whose life you might help save.