Depression — How to Spot It

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, the chatter is all about depression and mental illness. Newscasters sounded baffled as they delivered the sad news. How could the man who brought Mork from Ork and Mrs. Doubtfire to light, be sad enough to kill himself? He made millions laugh, but couldn’t do the same for himself. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s exactly what makes mental illness so tragic. How many people are now wondering if they should have seen it coming, if there was something they could’ve done or said to stop it? There are some warning signs, and while every person at risk for suicide may not present with them, they are important to know.

First, some facts:

– There are over 32,000 suicides in the U.S. each year.  There are three attempts by females to every one attempt by males. But, there are four times as many successful suicides by men.

– About 230,000 people currently suffer from depression.

– 80% of those who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.

– 15% of those with clinical depression die by suicide.

Chances are, you know someone who is depressed. While, it is sometimes impossible to help someone who is contemplating suicide, you do want to be able to recognize the symptoms in the hopes of being able to intervene.

According to, the warning signs in people who are in danger of committing suicide are:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
Additional warning signs:
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Suddenly happier, calmer.
  • Loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions.

If you fear someone you know may be on the verge of a suicide attempt, the best thing you can do is get them to seek professional help. Call 911 if you need to.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800.273.TALK (8255)

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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