The Rev. Joani Peacock writes about Robin Williams and his death at her weblog, Unorthodox & Unhinged:
Depression and its companion mania are commonly misunderstood. Happiness and sadness are ordinary human emotions. They ebb and flow with the ups and downs of everyday life and they ebb and flow in us all. But different in kind are the moods that manifest themselves in the heights of mania and in the depths of. depression. It’s not about being happy or sad; it’s about the size of your universe. On the up side you are exploring the galaxy with Captain Kirk. On the downside you can barely get out bed.
“Barely” is the operative word. While those who live with depression often can barely get out of bed — they in fact regularly do. And they do so to different degrees. The effort it takes to change out your pajamas can be painstaking. The simplest of tasks can take enormous energy. And yet — even so — depressed folks get to work on time. Depressed folks work hard and get promoted. Depressed folks run companies. Depressed folks run marathons. And depressed folks also run like crazy to escape their depression. Depressed folks are very good at disguise. Depressed folks are marvelous actors. They have to be — because they are strangers in a strange land.
… Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is no greater taboo — than suicide — that so sorely needs to be talked about. No taboo that so sorely needs to be brought out into the open.
Difficult as it may be, we need to speak this truth in love. When we believe a loved one, family member, coworker or friend is thinking of hurting themselves — we need to ask them just that. With compassion and concern: “I am worried about you. I have noticed (whatever you have noticed) and I want to ask if you are you thinking about hurting yourself?” It’s a myth that discussing and naming a loved one’s suicidal thoughts — puts these thoughts into their heads. Not true. Directly asking a person whether they are thinking of suicide can save that person’s life.