by Dorothy Paugh
In 2014, the tragic and untimely death of beloved actor and comic Robin Williams lifted the cone of silence around suicide and to this day has increased calls to crisis hotlines across America. That someone so gifted, loved and successful could despair and take his own life reminds us that we are indeed fragile and flawed beings, with limited resources if left to ourselves.
What can each one of us do to ease the enormous suffering, often just below the surface, that causes and is caused by suicide? We can listen to each other and reach out to one another. Too many hurting people suffer in silence, putting on a brave or funny face to the world until they succumb.
Pride prevents too many hurt people from admitting they are lost, have failed, made mistakes or need help. From those who lived to tell, suicidal individuals say that in their moment of despair they could not see how their lives could ever change for the better. In the outpouring of care after their desperate act made their pain evident, most did find hope to go on and built satisfying and productive lives.
We must help build social systems that teach emotional skills--how to reach out and connect with others, how to cope with failure, rejection, abuse and injustice. There is no shame in failure, sadness or anger. It is a shame to hide “negative” emotions that only continue to grow until they project an illusion of overwhelming darkness. Like menacing shadows on the wall, projected fears and frustrations always appear much larger than the object causing the image--until the lights come on.