We Need To Talk About The Way We Talk About Robin Williams' Suicide

Lori White Curator:

Did you know that suicide is contagious?

Yep. A great deal of research has been done on cases spanning the last 300 years that show suicide rates spike after a highly publicized suicide — especially when it's a celebrity suicide.

Does that mean we shouldn't talk about suicide or Robin Williams? No. It means we should talk about suicide and Robin Williams responsibly.

Just to reiterate, here are ways NOT to talk about suicide, straight from the CDC:

ASPECTS OF NEWS COVERAGE THAT CAN PROMOTE SUICIDE CONTAGION

  • Presenting simplistic explanations for suicide
  • Engaging in repetitive, ongoing, or excessive reporting of suicide in the news
  • Providing sensational coverage of suicide
  • Reporting "how-to" descriptions of suicide
  • Presenting suicide as a tool for accomplishing certain ends
  • Glorifying suicide or persons who commit suicide

"But Lori! They're basically saying don't talk about suicide."

No, what they're saying is don't make it sound attractive.

I'm not telling you not to mourn the man. Heck, I'm really sad too. I *am* asking you to show love to your friends and your fellow earthlings by taking responsibility for what *some* of your words might mean. We can do that.

Transcript:
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I wanna talk about Robin Williams and the Academy Awards. Specifically, I want to talk about this Tweet. Robin Williams is gone, and it makes sense for people that grew up with him to work through their pain by memorializing him. But we are responsible for what we share on social media. Robin is gone but there are thousands, maybe millions of people just like him who were right on the brink of taking their own life. And how we talk about Robin's death affects them. Suicide contagion is a real thing. You've probably never heard of it. But it's the phenomenon where suicide rates go up after a widely publicized suicide, especially if it's the suicide of a celebrity. The CDC published a media advisory that kind of outlines the cover styles that really affect suicide contagion, that really make it worse. You've probably seen people talk about his death this way. And it's really important to encourage people not to take their lives. Talking about his death this way encourages them to take their lives, and we have a responsibility not to do this. Robin Williams is not free. Robin Williams is dead. There are people who are suffering in a hole so deep and so dark that dying is starting to sound pretty good to them. Dying is starting to sound pretty good to them. So if we talk about suicide as freedom, they will believe us. So we must not do that. We have to talk about how to help somebody who's struggling. We have to talk about how to find help if you're struggling. We have to talk about help working. We have to talk about it getting better. If you are someone who struggled and you got through it, talk about it. There is no shame in your triumph. You won over whatever was plaguing you, and you are the evidence that the struggle is real, that the struggle is manageable, that the struggle can get easier, that the struggle can end - and you can get to a place where life is worth living again. Suicide... suicide is not freedom. Suicide is the end of second chances forever. If you want more information about suicide contagion or how to talk to a struggling loved one, or a reminder that it really can get better there's links down in the description. If you're in crisis, suicide is not the answer. Call the suicide hotline to get a compassionate, listening ear and - man, sometimes that's all you need. It does get better. It got better for me.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
About:

This magical piece of honesty and information first began as a really informative email from Upworthy curator Phoebe Gavin, and then we all peer-pressured her into making a video about it so we could share it with the world.

Does this post make a LOT of sense to you and are you glad it's here? Go over and tell Phoebe all your emotions on Twitter. She should probably make more of these, huh? *nodding head vigorously*

For more on suicide contagion, there's more info from the CDC.

And here's a note we've been sharing on Facebook:

As we mourn the loss of the incredible Robin Williams, please know that if you are suffering, you are not alone. Many of us here at Upworthy have struggled with depression, and lots of things have helped us get better — from therapy to medication to yoga to listening to Donny Hathaway to running to memorizing the dance routines of Britney Spears — and you can get better too. If you are in distress right now, please call (800) 273-8255. We love you and want you to live the happiest, healthiest life possible. Have you or someone you know gotten better?

Let me know how on Twitter.

Image c/o Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons License.

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