Robin Williams, Connectedness and the Need to End the Stigma Around Mental Illness

August 18, 2014 6:11 PM

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The first response most of us have to news of a suicide is: Why? And certainly the tragic death of Robin Williams was no exception. How could a man who brought so much joy and brightened the day for so many fail to feel the same thing for himself? Robin Williams' talent, his warmth, his energy, his generosity of spirit and his bigheartedness might have been singular, but his sad decision to take his own life was, unfortunately, all too common. And it's a heartbreaking decision that more and more people are making every year. So while of course each instance of suicide is different, and while the reasons that people choose to take their own life are complex and individual, as we ask "why" about Robin Williams, we should also broaden the question. Why tens of thousands of people? What is happening that so many people make this irrevocable choice? What are we missing in our culture? How can we open up the conversation on this issue to make other choices seem more realistic and appealing?

In fact, we know more about suicide than our diminished national conversation about it would indicate. Front and center is that, even as many other causes of death are in decline, the rate of suicide is rising. This is especially true among the middle-aged. From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate for th...

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