Hearing the news of Robin Williams’ death felt like we lost a favorite uncle. Then learning that his death was a result of suicide made it almost unbearable to consider. Although Williams spoke openly of his struggles with depression and alcoholism over the years, many were astonished that the perennial funnyman had long battled depression. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
Depression is a disease that strikes men and women of all ages. The legendary writer, poet—and talent we lost too soon to suicide—Sylvia Plath, wrote, “The thought that I might kill myself formed in my mind coolly as a tree or a flower.” While he’ll always be remembered for the laughter he brought to the world, Williams’ greatest legacy may be the awareness his death brought to the issue of depression and suicide. With that in mind and in the spirit of prevention, let’s look at 15 facts on dealing with depression.
1. Suicide Rates Go Up in Spring
While there is clear pattern of suicide rates tending to be 10 to 25% higher than the yearly average during the spring, experts are still trying to understand why this happens. It’s possible that the contrast between a person’s inner mood and the outside world is more dramatic in the spring. Bright sunshine and awakening blooms, rather than brighten the spirits, only reinforce the disharmony a depressed person feels.
2. Teens & Young Adults
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds—after car accidents and homicide. For 24 to 35-year-olds, it’s the second leading cause of death. During the emotional turmoil of adolescence, depression symptoms can be missed altogether and teens frequently take their lives before it can be diagnosed.
3. One in 25 are Successful
For every 25 suicide attempts, one person will successfully take his or her own life. On average, one person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes.
4. Deadlier than HIV/AIDS
For every one person who dies from HIV/AIDS, two people will die by suicide.
5. Suicide Affects Everyone
On average, one suicide affects six people. Think of parents, grandparents, spouses and children. Add in friends and co-workers and the number multiplies beyond that.
6. Depression is Widespread
Worldwide, more than 350 million people suffer from depression. One in 10 Americans suffers from symptoms of depression and of that number, only about 20% are receiving treatment.
7. One in Four Children
It’s estimated 25% of American teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood.
8. Depression Triggers
The chances of experiencing depression in someone already predisposed to the disease are increased by episodes of abuse, neglect, violence or poverty. Unemployment and social changes, like recent divorce, can also trigger depression.
9. No Discrimination
Depression can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race or class. The wealthy and the poor are affected equally. Unfortunately, poverty and physical ailments can magnify the effects of depression.
10. More Women Than Men
Women have higher rates of depression than men but are less likely to commit suicide. Nearly 1 in 10 women experienced depression following the birth of a child.
11. Link Between Physical & Mental Health
People who are depressed are more likely to suffer from other ailments—everything from colds to heart disease, and in the case of Robin Williams, Parkinson’s Disease. People with depression are more likely to live in states with less access to health insurance and higher rates of obesity.
12. More Men Commit Suicide
While women are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, men make up 70% of all suicides. Women, historically, are more likely than men to seek treatment and have regular medical exams, which could be part of the disparity.
13. Women & Suicidal Thoughts
Women report more suicidal thoughts than men, yet most suicides are men. Partly this is due to the fact that men are less likely than women to secure professional help and more likely to use effective means of suicide like firearms.
Nearly 50% of all suicides are by firearm. In fact, in the U.S., 60% of all gun deaths are suicides.
15. Creativity & Depression
Robin Williams was not alone in suffering from depression. The lists of creative people who’ve suffered from depression include Marie Osmond, Ellen DeGeneres, Roseanne, Sheryl Crowe and Dolly Parton. Jackson Pollock, Ernest Hemmingway, Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens and Tennessee Williams all suffered from depression throughout their lifetimes.