If I told you I knew of a middle-aged man who was feeling a bit depressed, you might not think too much about the consequences of such a situation.
Throw in the fact that this person is moving toward the end of a successful career, and you might think that he is looking forward to — although anxious about — retiring to a less-demanding lifestyle. Now add that he has a history of substance abuse, is experiencing difficulties in his personal life and recently was being treated for depression, and you might remark that it is a good thing that he is getting some help.
The truth is this person is a high risk for suicide, and yet we never want to believe that someone is capable of taking his or her own life. We are always shocked when we hear about the death of a well-known person such as Robin Williams. And unfortunately, we only see certain aspects of a person’s life, particularly when that someone in the public eye so often. That makes it even more difficult to understand how a person who brought so much joy to millions of people could be so unhappy and see no other option but to end his life.
People will continue to analyze and dissect what went wrong for Williams. I am no expert on the subjects of depression and mental illness. But I do have an interest in helping people and have experienced the loss of a friend to suicide. He was much like Mr. Williams: successful in his career and always appeared to be in control. He was 55 years old.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the 10TH leading cause of death in the United States and eighth among people age 55-64. The CDC showed a dramatic spike in suicides between 1999 and 2010 for middle-aged people. The largest increases were among men in their 50s, whose suicide rate rose by almost 50 percent; and women in the 60s, who experienced a nearly 60 percent increase.
These are startling numbers.
It’s obvious that depression’s hold on a person can be both powerful and everlasting. Depression is not like a cold or the flu; you don’t just get better and move on. Depression can be something you live with for a long time — if not for a lifetime. It’s the voice you can’t ignore and the feeling you can’t escape.
But there is help. There are medications, and there are many other avenues of treatment that also may be effective. With depression, one size does not fit all.
Probably the most important step one can take is to talk about what is happening and seek professional help. But it is an uphill climb for sure. Robin Williams had all the money and resources available to a person and still became a victim.
For older adults, there are many things that cause a person to become depressed. Loss of loved ones and family members, age-related illnesses, chronic pain and even some medications can have side-effects that bring on depression. If you know someone whom you think is depressed or going through a tough time, help that person get some needed assistance. The key is to take action and not wait.
You could be saving someone’s life.
DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Contact him at 912-531-7867 or go to www.thesuitesatstationexchange.com.