Suicide, Mental Illness, and Abuse


With the passing of the beloved actor Robin Williams last week, there has been a lot of talk about suicide and mental illness floating around the media lately. Each and every suicide is tragic, and my heart goes out to the Williams family. Robin Williams once said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world,” and I’d like to use this opportunity to make that happen, because words must be spoken to have any effect. f076fe3c171a4b6ee66b395de796ef44
The words that need to be heard are that we as a community have the ability to reduce the number of suicides that occur by standing up to violence. The world of psychology is beginning to realize that many people who suffer from mental illness have been victims of physical or sexual abuse in the past.
The British Journal of Psychiatry has published an article on the link between mental illness and domestic violence, saying,”From the limited studies it would appear that the vast majority of people with severe mental illness have experienced either physical or sexual assault during their lifetime and this is often associated with a history of childhood abuse and substance misuse.” The article also says that the mental health consequences of domestic violence is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality for women of childbearing age. But don’t think this is just a women’s issue; men are often victims of abuse and sexual assault as well.
Don’t forget that threats of suicide may not always be signs of depression, but are sometimes used as a tool to manipulate a partner in a violent relationship. This is a tactic used especially when a partner is trying to leave a relationship. An abuser will say things like, “I can’t live without you, I will kill myself if you leave me.” Sometimes abusers will even go so far as to attempt or complete suicide if their partner tries to leave in order to make them feel guilty. Make sure to seek help if you or someone you know is ever in a relationship where threats like these are made.
So even when the bruises have healed and children have grown up, the effects of abuse are far reaching. By being informed about abuse, you can recognize the signs and help those around you find the help they need to both escape the dangerous situations they may currently be facing, and also to escape the prison of mental illness that might follow without proper intervention. It may only take a few caring words to save a life.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255