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Comic’s suicide brings new light to prevention, awareness
By SERAINE PAGE | For the Independent
With the recent passing of beloved actor and comic Robin Williams, discussions on suicide prevention have taken front and center for many mental health organizations across the nation.
Despite his funny demeanor and ability to mask pain, Williams still took his own life last week. It's since been revealed that the actor suffered from depression and had the early onset of Parkinson’s disease.
“If we have open dialogue about it, we understand the risk factors for those who may be at risk,” said Terry Holbrook, a Bremerton licensed mental health counselor. “If we have that dialogue, hopefully we can identify those who may be at increased risk before it's too late. And Robin Williams, a wonderful entertainer, one of my favorites, he's obviously had his demons, and one of those demons was substance abuse. There are certain factors that can contribute to it (suicide), like depression.”
According to a Washington State Injury and Violence Prevention guide excerpt, the West and Midwest have a higher prevalence of suicides completed compared to other regions in the U.S.
Locally, the most recent data reports show that last year, 24 Kitsap County residents took their own lives.
Karen McKay Bevers, Kitsap Public Health District's public information officer, noted that suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the county, which has statistically remained unchanged since around 1994. However, it is the second leading cause of death for young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, and the third leading cause of death in adults ages 25-44.
Holbrook, who has a private practice, noted that certain populations are at increased risk for suicide, including teens and the elderly. Prevention is possible, especially when friends and family are willing to have the dialogue about suicide, he noted.
Those close to someone with depression or substance abuse problems should take note when a loved one starts talking with suicidal tendencies, Holbrook said. Some may fear they put “the thought” of suicide in that person's head, but chances are it's already there if they are talking about a plan, which is the perfect time to get someone help, he said.
“We want to intervene,” Holbrook said. “Someone like Robin Williams, wow, what a wonderful contribution he had to our lives, and now he is gone. Everyone has something to contribute to society and whenever someone commits suicide, it is lost to us collectively.”
Red flags include talk of suicide, giving possessions away and detachment from interests and loved ones, he said. Resources, including Kitsap Mental Health, are available for those folks to call, he said.
Between 1992-94 and 2010-12, on average, there were 95 Kitsap resident suicide deaths during each three-year period, or 32 deaths per year. And between 2010 and 2012, there were 108 suicides in Kitsap County, up from 83 suicides between 2001 and 2003.
Across the nation, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2010, an average of 105 deaths per day, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet.
Healthy People, which provides 10-year national objectives for improving the health of Americans recently proved the difficult nature of assisting with suicide prevention.
The 2010 goal was to reduce the age-adjusted rate of suicide to five per 100,000 people. Yet, in 2010, the rate was 14 per 100,000. Likewise, the 2020 goal is to reduce the age-adjusted rate of suicide to 10 per 100,000. According to a Washington State Department of Health fact sheet, that goal is also unlikely if current trends continue.
Help is a phone call away
Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas: The clinic operates as an over-the-phone crisis intervention, information referral and supportive listening ear for those in situational distress. Call 360-479-3033 for help.
There are numerous organizations to help suicidal individuals. Below are contact numbers for those in need of talking to someone:
• Volunteers of America 24-Hour Crisis Line: This organization offers emotional support and crisis intervention to those in crisis or considering suicide. There is also a crisis service available through Care Crisis Chat online. Call 1-800-584-3578 or http://www.carecrisischat.org/ for chatting.
• National Suicide Hotline: No matter the problem, someone is willing to talk to suicidal persons about reasons for living. Trained and skilled counselors answer the phones 24/7. Calls are free and confidential. Call 1-800-273-8255 for a crisis center in a Lifeline network closest to the location of the caller.
• Survivors of Suicide of Kitsap County: This organization is to help those who have been impacted by the suicide of a loved one. SOS meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Bremerton. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-871-9136 for more information.