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Dr. Provet on Robin Williams

Robin Williams’ death tragically underscores how depression combined with substance abuse create a common ground for suicide. Fame, fortune – and in Mr. Williams’ case, comedy – cannot prevent such self-inflicted tragedy.
Stigma still pervades meaningful societal consideration of suicide. Akin to substance abuse, it is commonly seen as an individual’s choice and as such engenders less empathy and concern than other forms of mental illness.
Science is illuminating important truths – both pertaining to the frequency and demographics of suicide and its biological/genetic basis. For example, suicide is a leading cause of death among people with substance use disorders. It has been convincingly demonstrated that mood disorders, such as depression and manic-depressive illness, also greatly increase the risk of suicidal behaviors. Prevention strategies must continue to explore and identify the genetic, biological, hormonal, and social correlates of suicide.

Mr. Williams gave so much of his life to making others feel joy and laughter.  Hopefully, his death will encourage us to learn far more than we currently know about suicide and help us to reduce the increasing frequency of this voluntary, final act.

Peter Provet, Ph.D.
Odyssey House President & CEO
Board Member, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

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