Robin Williams’ memory, his acting, his stories and comedy sketches will live on through video clips and the internet. Hopefully, we will take some lessons from the loss of this extraordinary actor, comedian, and exceptional communicator.
Depression can be a quiet killer. It is a disorder that is widely experienced and yet few people seek treatment for it.
According to the CDC, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for all ages in 2010. The CDC report also states that there were 38,364 suicides in the U.S—an average of 105 each day.
In looking at gender issues, the same report stated that males are four times more likely than females to commit suicide, and represent 79% of all U.S., suicides.
While suicide prevention and intervention programs are a must, we can take better care of ourselves and others if we know how to push depression back.
The next several blogs will give you tools you can use to battle the blues, to push back depression. These concepts are found in my book Get a Grip on Depression. It is also available on Amazon/Kindle and can be ordered through your local bookstore.
Depression robs you by making you feel inadequate and worthless. As bad as robbery sounds, you and I always have choices in how we respond to what life throws at us.
Suggestion # 1 Stop saying bad things about yourself.
There is a great line from Kelly’s Heroes, a Clint Eastwood anti-warwar movie where Donald Sutherland’s character does an excellent job confronting the negative ways-check out this clip.
One of the things you can do for yourself is to focus on what you appreciate about your life, yourself, and your situation. While this is a simple concept, it may be a difficult task, particularly if you have been under the heaviness of depression. Part of getting better is to begin to stop speaking the nagging, negative thoughts that so easily slip into your mind when you are depressed.
In the place of negative thoughts and words, try noticing what you do appreciate about yourself. No matter how bad you feel, there are good things about you.
Try this assignment. Make a list of at least three things that you appreciate. Here are a few suggestions to consider adding to your list:
A good listener
A loyal friend
A fresh, warm chocolate chip cookie
The purpose of this exercise is to help you begin to push back the dark, consuming, negative thoughts and focus on the good around you.
I love the line from Kathryn Stockett’s book and movie The Help, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” These are keeper phrases because you are all of those and more. Here is the clip.
Monday, I will have the next tip for pushing back depression.
John is a licensed counselor with over 35,000 in the people helping business. He is also a speaker, author, and crisis response specialist.
Laughter, Joy, tenderness, and passion are things that come to mind when I think of Robin Williams. Another attribute I admired was his ability to be vulnerable. For years he talked about his struggle with addictions, depression, and open heart surgery.
He had struggled a great part of his adult life with a brain disorder which included severe depression, which in many cases co-exists with addictions. Even with treatment, support from friends and family and remarkably successful career, mental illness can still end up killing a person.
As a Christ follower, I have been somewhat discouraged by some of the “faith-based” blogs I have seen about suicide. As a seasoned professional, I have come to see that individuals who come to the edge of the black hole of suicide are not in their right mind. Isolation, depression, and hopelessness steal the individual of their ability to look forward to the possibilities of hope and relief. I believe in a God that is at His core Compassionate, one who weeps with those who weep, one who feels sadness, and one who mourns with those who mourn.
We need to respond to hurting friends, neighbors, and relative with compassion.
Here are some facts about suicide and depression. I trust that you will find this helpful.
The following is from my book Get a Grip on Depression:
Over 90% of people who commit suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder. Many times, people who commit suicide have a substance abuse problem. Often they have that problem in combination with other mental disorders.
Adverse or traumatic life events in combination with other risk factors, such as clinical depression, may lead to death. But suicide and suicidal behaviors are never normal responses to stress.
Other risk factors for suicide include:
• One or more prior suicide attempts
• Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
• Family history of suicide
• Family violence
• Physical or sexual abuse
• Keeping firearms in the home
• Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
• Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
• Always talking or thinking about death
• Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
• Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Losing interest in things one used to care about
• Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
• Saying things like, “It would be better if I were nothere” or “I want out."
• Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
• Talking about suicide
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
• Prior suicide attempts (According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20 and 50% of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt)
What you can do if you have suicidal thoughts:
• Talk with trusted friends, family members, or others you respect who can assist you
• Talk with your doctor, mental health professional, or pastor. Many times, talking eases or removes suicidal urges. In some cases though, hospitalization is necessary until a sense of balance can be restored.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or a local hotline to speak with a crisis counselor.
John is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Speaker, and Author.
Here is an ancient thought that could provide encouragement.
Psalms 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
Click this link for a Free Depression Test
My first recollection of the zany comedy of Robin Williams goes all the way back to his guest appearance as Mork on “Happy Days.” Over the years, I followed him mainly through television and then through his movies. I have to admit, I rarely missed his late night appearances on Jay Leno because I knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride.
He did touch millions of lives through his art, his kindness, and the multitude of characters he played throughout his career. There are thousands of tributes to him on the internet. As a result, many bloggers are talking about things individuals can do if they are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
This is where I want to jump in.
As a therapist with over 35 years of experience, I was thrown off guard when I heard the news of Robin Williams death. I began thinking about this three part series as a result of this incident and have thought long about what to say.
In following several blogs and conversations, I have only heard one commentary about some other possible issues that may have been going on William’s life. In addition to the impact of drug and alcohol abuse, which he’d been successfully treated for, and based on reports, he had maintained his sobriety, Williams had also had open heart surgery.
Dr. Drew Penski, in responding to the news of Williams death, reminded listeners that Williams had struggled with depression as well as the addiction issues. Penski reminded viewers that Williams had also undergone major heart surgery a few years ago. Dr. Drew spent several minutes talking about the psychological risks of having your chest opened up. He stated that for many people, this procedure, though life-saving can increase the chances of major depression. If someone is already “at risk” this surgery can make them even more prone to depression.
Williams had also been diagnosed with the Parkinson’s. This could have been another another factor that could have pushed him over the edge.
The loss of any life to suicide is tragic. Understanding depression, developing tools to help hurting people, and being present with friends in their tough times can go along way in helping people have hope and a future
My purpose in this three-part series is to look at what you and I can do for ourselves and for others who might be depressed or even suicidal.
I will close with a couple of important thoughts from two writer's
Andrea Lennon has some thoughtful reflections that I wanted to share:
Cliff Williams, author of a thoughtful article, "When Christians Contemplate Suicide", closes with a powerful reminder.
Philo of Alexandra wrote that we should always “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Everyone we meet is, indeed, fighting battles, many of the same battles, in fact, that suicidal people fight—difficult circumstances, mood swings, a sense of unworthiness, dejection. Some of the people we meet, including some of the people we know well, are fighting such big battles that they want to give up entirely. Our kindness can help them fight these battles. It can encourage them and strengthen them. It can save their lives.
My next blogs will focus on identifying depression, as well as practical tips you can use to push back depression.
Depression can be treated and symptoms managed. The National Suicide Hotline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
John is Licensed Counselor, Speaker, and Author. His book, Get a Grip on Depression, is a faith-friendly guide to understanding depression. You may purchase this resource on Amazon/Kindle. To purchase an autographed copy directly from John, click here
This is the third and final blog of the 10 steps for Surviving a Rough and Tumble world. Here is a quick review of the first seven.
1. Practice optimism.
2. Find a resiliency model.
3. Develop a moral compass and unbreakable beliefs.
4. Practice generosity and kindness.
5. Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility.
6. Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions.
7. Build an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress.
8. Establish and maintain a supportive social network to help you.
Dr. George Bonanno's research, in his book The Other Side of Sadness, points out one of the ways that people and cultures move beyond trauma, depression and other life events is through community, family, and other networks of people that give us courage, motivation, and shared history to move forward. His research also reveal how important family, friends, and community are in dealing with depression. Learn more about this is my book, Get a Grip on Depression.
Hebrews 10:23-25 - “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now...(NLT)
9. Stay physically fit. One I need to work on. Dr. Oz suggests starting out with walking 30 minutes a day. It is a start.
1 Corinthians 6:19 - 20 - “Don’t you realize that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (NLT)
10. Laugh deep and often.
Whether it be some "Old School Comedy" like the Three Stooges or more modern comedians like Steve Harvey or Robin Williams, be sure to find something or someone that can help you keep life on the light side.
As sad as the loss of Robin Williams is, his humor and zany impressions, and his care for people will live on through the volume of work that he created over his life.
Proverbs 17:22 - “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (NLT)
Author Ben Sherwood, The Survivors Club, was surprised when Dr. Charney shared the most-surprising insight of his career is "the hidden capacity most people to rebound from adversity."
One ancient Latin phrase says it best, Plus estem voius.” There is more in you than you know. Lean into life today.
My next three part series will include some thoughts about depression in men, Robin Williams, and practical things you can do to help someone who is struggling with depression.
As I begin this installment of 10 Steps, I wanted to let you know that on I will send out the third installment of 10 Steps Thursday evening and the next three to four blogs will be be very focused on depression, and things you can do to help yourself and others get better. Growing up watching Robin Williams, I am 62 and he was 63, it was very sad to hear about his suicide. While I strongly disagree with how some media outlets went into the gory details of his death. This sad story reminds us of the power of depression. The blogs will not be negative, but will contain principles out of my book, Get a Grip on Depression and out of 35 years of counseling.
Now back to the 10- Steps for surviving, which by the way, are key to pushing back depression and moving forward in life.
4. Practice generosity and kindness - unselfish concern for others, being kind-hearted, philanthropic.
Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT)
5. Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility, meaning the ability to learn and adapt your knowledge and thinking to new situations.
The Apostle Paul illustrated the importance of this principle in Romans 8:38-39.
"I'm convinced that nothing-living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable-absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." (The Message)
6. Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions.
2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NLT)
Philippians 4:6-8 - “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus...Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)
7. Build an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress.
2 Peter 1:5-7 - "So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, and no day will pass without its reward as you mature in the experience of our Master Jesus." (The Message)
I'd love to hear what you think. Feel free to comment.
John is a Counselor, Author, Speaker and Photographer that helps people "Get a Grip on Life."