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Is There a Link Between Suicide and Depression?

Flowers are placed in memory of actor and comedian Robin Williams on his Walk of Fame star in Hollywood, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014.
Flowers are placed in memory of actor and comedian Robin Williams on his Walk of Fame star in Hollywood, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014.
The Link Between Depression and Suicide
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The suspected suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams is being linked, in part, to depression. Many Americans suffer from the condition. But, many also are trying to help people with depression. They are finding ways to bring attention to depression and ways to treat it.

For example, thousands of people take part in what are called “Out of the Darkness Walks.” The walkers remember loved ones they lost to suicide. They also hope to raise money for suicide prevention efforts and research into depression. Depression increases the risk of people taking their own lives.

Steve Iselin served in the Navy for 20 years. After his retirement, he began to look for another job. That is when he began feeling hopeless.

“I had a great sense of dread every day. Agony is another word that comes to mind. I didn’t want to do anything that I would normally like to do. I had no interest in seeing other people.”

Depression makes people lose hope.

Steve Iselin found a job. But he left after one week because he told himself he could not do the work. Everything he did seemed very difficult. Decisions were painful, even having to choose what he would wear that day or what to eat. Mr. Iselin was suffering from depression.

Bob Gebbia heads the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He says being depressed is very different from being sad or having a bad day. He says that about 20 million people are found to have clinical depression in the United States every year.

Mr. Gebbia says the cause could be a combination of genetic influences, changes in brain chemistry or environmental reasons. He notes that some people are more likely than others to get depressed.

“Let’s say you lose your job, divorce, or, you know, a loss of someone.”

After Robin William’s death, the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide released a statement.

The foundation said Mr. Williams: “brought laughter into every life he touched; Robin also suffered from depression. It is our hope that we are able to have an open conversation that depression and addictions are real illnesses that can sometimes be fatal. Every 13 minutes someone dies from suicide, and it is among the top ten causes of death in the U.S.”

The group said more needs to be done to prevent suicides. It called for greater attention to mental health issues, warning signs and effective forms of intervention and treatment.

Steve Iselin was lucky. His wife recognized the signs of depression. She helped him get the expert care he needed. But he says that was not true of his brother’s son. Mr. Iselin says his nephew became depressed a few years later and killed himself.

A year after his nephew’s death, Mr. Iselin visited his brother in San Francisco and heard about the Out of the Darkness Walk. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention organized the event. Both men took part.

Steve Iselin said that was the first day his brother understood that perhaps he was not to blame for his son’s death.

Since then, Steve Iselin has volunteered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, taking part in many community walks.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

This story was written in Special English by the VOA Learning English Staff. It was edited by Mario Ritter.


Words in the News

suicide n. the act of killing oneself

depression n. severe unhappiness; a period of reduced business and economic activity during which many people lose their jobs

prevent v. to keep or stop from going or happening; prevention - n. the act of keeping something from happening

laugh v. to make sounds to express pleasure or happy feelings; laughter - n. the act or the sound of laughing

intervene v. to come between; to come between in order to settle or solve; intervention - n.

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