Robin Williams' Death Sparks Renewed Conversation About Depression, Suicide

Aug 12, 2014

A Syracuse University clinical psychologist is urging people to be aware and up front with a friend or family member they suspect might be depressed or even suicidal.   

Robin Williams performs in New York in 2007. He died Monday at age 63 of an apparent suicide.
Credit Evan Agostini / AP, via

  Professor Afton Kapuscinski hopes the discussion goes beyond the renewed conversation sparked by the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams.  She understands why people might shy away from approaching those difficult topics.  But Kapucinski says it might be the difference between life and death for someone who needs support…

"The biggest mistake you could make, particularly if you have a good relationship with that person, is not to approach them and avoid it.  I would recommend simply being rather transparent about the conversation by saying 'I have concerns about you, you seem sad, you seem more down lately.  Do you want to talk about it?' And seeing if the other person is willing to do that."

Kapuscinski says chances are Robin Williams exhibited some of these symptoms.

"It may well be that the way he appeared in public when he was working was not necessarily representative of his internal reality, and it sounds like it definitely was not.  It might lead someone to ask the question like could this happen to anybody out of nowhere, because it  seems hard to understand how somebody who was so energetic and enthusiastic would be so depressed and would be contemplating suicide."

 She says it’s very rare for someone to die by suicide without anyone having an idea the person was struggling.  Kapuscinski says there are usually opportunities to intervene.