Arguing Against Suicide

Thursday, August 14, 2014

depression, teen depression, pain, suffering, tunnel

Are people who take their own lives selfish? Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History and Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It (Yale University Press, 2013), discusses the news of Robin Williams' suicide, what it says about those who choose suicide, and what we can all learn to reach out to those in need.


Jennifer Michael Hecht

Comments [71]

Anne from Brooklyn

I just listened to this podcast today and was really turned off by your guest Jennifer M. Hecht. I first heard her on your show last year and bought her book, Stay but found it disappointing. I was excited to hear what she had to offer with regards to Robin Williams suicide and found her to be completely inappropriate. The discussion around this topic needs to be about mental illness and she is not qualified for that discussion. I agree with another commenter about how rude Ms. Hecht was to the bipolar caller. I too am bipolar and could commiserate with Williams' discussion with Maron. Even if a depressed person does not have thoughts about suicide often, he/she knows that those thoughts may very well come back - and that haunts you. I would really like to hear a discussion about this topic with a professional who is able to talk about the dark place someone might be in and how to help them in the moment. And how do we begin to talk about suicide/suicidal thoughts without feeling judged?

Aug. 24 2014 03:23 PM
anonymous from Ramsey

I thought that Jennifer M. Hecht was extremely rude to the caller who was bi-polar. While the caller was trying to speak,Jennifer interrupted her and said "this is dangerous." I hope that Jennifer is not a therapist because she is clueless about people who are bi-polar. It is an illness that is treatable with medicine like lithium. It is effective when given in the proper amount,and regulated with frequent blood tests. It is also important to work with a licensed and caring therapist,someone who is the polar opposite of Jennifer Hecht's philosophy. She is an uninformed academician! When Jennifer used the word "dangerous" about her caller I can only say that she is a dangerous and misinformed person to be on your show. She lacks compassion and real insight about the topic she is writing about. Her book should be taken off the shelves of bookstores and libraries. She didn't deserve to be on your show!!And by the way I am bi-polar as well and lead a very full life!!

Aug. 14 2014 07:01 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Emma from Manhattan

Thanks for the single intelligent comment. Most everyone else is determined to push some sort of sentimental, sophomoric nonsense.

We all share a common fate, it is DEATH. DEATH DEATH DEATH. In the meantime it is for us to decide, rationally and hopefully without undue pressure or influence, how we will live our lives AND THEN DIE. If that means we don't want to linger for decades in pain or simply because we have enough self respect to want to die at the place and time of our choosing it is not something for anyone else to pass judgement on. Any other argument is a despicable, selfish, self serving diversion from the facts of life and DEATH contrived to manipulate, control and despise our inherent freedom and dignity as human beings.

And there is no shortage of people, all GOOD DECENT PEOPLE, who want to do that...

Aug. 14 2014 06:41 PM
Jennifer from NYC

It should have been clarified that Ms. Hecht was addressing a subsection of people who are struggling with depression but who are still tethered to the everyday world. But, it is clear that she is not, nor cannot, speak to those who are in the very depth of the disease. Those who have experienced it, as some commenting here, are simply not tethered. They live in a black hole, and no one exists within that space but the person suffering. Dubbing the decision to end the pain selfish, cowardly or wrong is irrelevant. Until one can truly understand how cut off this person is, casting aspersions do not further the discussion and only serve to reaffirm, superficially, one's own self-righteousness. Ms. Hecht may have done more damage by importing judgment, particularly when addressing the caller. I second the request that Mr. Lehrer get a psychiatric expert to address the issue. I am the sister of a brother who took his own life.

Aug. 14 2014 06:05 PM
never again from does it matter?

My immediate reaction to this segment was intense anger, followed by disbelief. I listen to this show almost every day and a (slim but acceptable) majority of the time a comprehensive balance of all the encompassing views on a subject are permitted to be expressed. Today’s show was beyond appalling. Having lived with mental illness all my life and having tried to commit suicide at age 20 I was absolutely disgusted with the way that callers who had the (forgive me) balls to disagree with that woman were treated. Furthermore the sounds of her tearing up did nothing to convince me that her assertions of having struggled with mental illness were true, they sounded like the tears of a toddler who cries when she doesn’t get her way. She may have struggled with mental illness, however she might privately define struggle - or for that matter mental illness, but her self righteousness and unwillingness to actually listen to the words of those she claims to have studied and want to help displayed a distinct selfishness of purpose and disregard for anyone but her own self interests. Mr. Lehrer’s defense of her behavior and dismissal of the views of his callers was by far the worst part of this entire situation. I can no longer bring myself to listen to this show, my respect for Mr. Lehrer is gone completely.

Aug. 14 2014 05:59 PM
Magdalena from New York

"Wait to feel better to make these decisions?"

As an alumni of the New School and a regular listener to your show, Brian, I am so disappointed by the opinion of Jennifer Hecht and this interview. Ms. Hecht did not discuss the topic in depth and doesn't understand the emotional and intellectual complexity of the subject in discussion. Also, spending 23 minutes on a topic of such importance and sensitivity is absurd. And why didn't you invite a psychologist and/or people with the experience of surviving a closed one, who committed suicide?

There is a huge difference between "human sadness" and depression. In my opinion, the actual act of committing suicide is an impulsive, emotional decision taken by a person, who is not able to make an accurate judgement at the moment of suicide, due to a mental disorder, depression or other circumstances. A normally thinking healthy person, like us and Ms. Hecht, can not possibly understand the reasoning and the emotional transformation that takes place in the brain of a person who has actually committed suicide.

Talking about poets and philosophers, who have considered the romantic notion of taking their lives, but didn't do it is humiliating and undermining the integrity of the victims of real suicide. Also, not taking into consideration the mental illnesses, health issues and all the turmoil in these people's lives, whilst giving an opinion on suicide is unprofessional. You can't just tell somebody-- "wait until you feel better and then see what you think about taking your life". The subtle difference between considering of taking your own life and the actual action of doing so is what makes us, normally thinking people, unable to apply our rational and logical minds to this topic.

Suicide is very common and it is unfortunate, that a famous person, Robin Williams, had to die for you to touch this subject. Just like Robin Williams, my father, a scientist of reputation, committed suicide three years ago and I am still grief-stricken by this experience. No matter how well you know somebody and how much you love them and want to help, the help the way we see it is not applicable to somebody, who's judgement is affected by an illness or depression. It is impossible to apply public responsibility and public expectations to a person, who is unable to think rationally. Please next time invite a psychologist to talk on this topic and carefully provide a somewhat more satisfactory opinion.

Aug. 14 2014 05:03 PM
Amy Paschall from Brooklyn

Another option which is a great one and stationed here in NYC...

Samaritans completely confidential 24-hour crisis response hotline, staffed by professionally trained volunteers who have responded to over 1 million calls, provides immediately accessible ongoing emotional support to those who are in distress or suicidal. 24/7 Hotline: (212)-673-3000

Aug. 14 2014 04:09 PM
keira from Manhattan

"Don't waste your time with this book."

—"What Happens When a Professor Tries To Use Philosophy to Prevent Suicide" Adam Plunkett, The New Republic

Aug. 14 2014 03:35 PM
Lisa from Brooklyn

All due respect to Robin Williams and everyone else, but "No" is NEVER the right answer to life. I loved Robin Williams as much as any of his fans and admirers. How can you not love someone who made you laugh so hard it hurt? How could you not love some one who speaks the truth about this crazy life, but "No" is never the right answer to life. I maintain my position that suicide is a selfish act. But it is also forgivable. We must forgive him for what he did, but he did wrong. I sympathize with his pain. I understand that he was in pain, but he did wrong. So many people railing against those who take this position say that it is a condemnation. It is not. I do not condemn Mr. Williams, but we must be able to say what is right and what is wrong. To those who say that it was his life to do with it what he willed. I disagree. We are in this life together and we all must understand that everything we do has an effect on the world, especially those closest to us. To those who say that it was his right to kill himself, let me ask you this: If someone you loved, say, a child, wanted to kill him/herself, would you say, "sure, go ahead if you feel that bad. It's your life"?

Aug. 14 2014 02:09 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from NYC

Hi, I have always felt that people contemplating suicide are not selfish. I would not want anyone to kill themselves, but often the emotional pain is too much or they are tired of their situation. I myself am facing a bad housing situation and am not thinking of killing myself but I am very sad about it. What helps me is taking care of animals, mostly vulnerable animals. It does not solve my issue, but I feel better because I am of use to other living beings. No one can know what Robin Williams went through. He was famous and loved and his family cared about him. May he rest in Peace.

Aug. 14 2014 02:07 PM
Tanya from New York

Wow, so many of these comments pretty much tell people that they should just go ahead and kill themselves. Wow, that's some awesome advice that I hope no one takes.

Aug. 14 2014 01:59 PM

These negative comments, and I agree with them, about your guest should be discussed tomorrow or in another segment re this subject.

Aug. 14 2014 01:01 PM
Concerned from Long Island

I am deeply disappointed in the Brian Lehrer Show for having this particular guest speak about a very important and concerning issue in society which is Mental Illness. Ms. Hecht failed to consider that Major Depressive and Substance Related Disorders are brain diseases and sometimes they can be resistant to treatment. A person suffering from severe depression is not capable of rational thought during an episode of intense emotional pain and feelings of hopelessness. Their brain chemistry is misfiring. So to say that they should be thinking about how their behavior will effect others is beyond ignorant it's just wrong. It's that kind of wrong thinking that has kept us from eliminating the stigma around mental illness and substance abuse.

Aug. 14 2014 12:46 PM
Ed from New Jersey

There are many local, non-profit free helplines available to those in NJ. Some are specialized for vets, for youth, for for new mothers with postpartum depression, etc.
For local New Jersey suicide hotline and helpline phone numbers in each New Jersey County - see helpline numbers in box on the right side of the first page:
To find local counseling services, see county helplines on left side of first page, and look under "Mental Health" for toll-free NJ numbers on the second page.

If you are just struggling with any addiction, physical or mental illness like depression, the loss of a loved one, job loss, or any one of hundreds of other painful and stressful life situations, there are over 8,200 local no-fee community support groups in NJ on a regular basis. They are NOT crisis or therapy groups. But most are run by people who "have been there," who come together to share their stories, strengths, coping skills, knowledge of helpful resources, and hopes. To learn about them:

Take good care and hope.

Aug. 14 2014 12:09 PM
Joanna Stelling from New Jersey

Hello and thank you for such a provocative and sensitive show. I was very distraught, however, to hear your guest's comments on suicide prevention. Robin Williams was in pain, such pain that by the time he decided to take his own life, the thought of what he was doing to his loved ones was probably the last thing on his mind. You can say suicide is not the answer, suicide is the coward's way out, you can be as brutal in your comments as you want, but nothing can touch the brutality of what Mr. Williams was doing to himself, not just by taking his own life, but every day of his life. I couldn't watch his manic performances because I knew he was exorcising his devils when he was in that state. I could see that his mania was his lifeline. Had he not become a comedian, he probably would have died much sooner.
Your guest talked from her mind, not her heart, and manic depression, borderline personality - the whole cocktail of diagnoses - is so overwhelming, the fight is so hard to keep doing it day after day after day that it doesn't matter if you put pills in packets to bring down the suicide rate, it doesn't matter how many hotlines you speak with - it's a disease just like cancer, alcoholism, heart failure. And it is a failure of the heart. My mother was probably manic depressive (hypo manic because she functioned). So many nights we would find her sitting in the living room in the dark, all night long, just staring out the window for hours and hours. Her disease overwhelmed her and obliterated any will to live. Depression wipes out the individual and leaves nothing. Nothing. You feel nothing but absolute blankness, a metal cage, a half life of hopelessness that is beyond despair. Believe me. I've been on every medication, every combination of medications that was humanly possible to put in my body. I was in therapy for 25 years. Talk therapy helped give me some perspective. But not a day goes by that I don't think of suicide and it's a daily fight to push back at this horror. Every day I strap it on like a piece of granite and haul it around with me to work, to parties, to sleep. Blissful sleep. Nothing that this woman said on your show today even touched the complexity of what depression does. It eats your soul. Take a look at the last paintings of Mark Rothko. They come very close to the abyss. I believe Mr. Williams was very brave to go on as long as he did until he just couldn't see a way out any longer. We all look for that last flicker of light to sustain us. It must have been extinguished for him. He was not a coward. He was not selfish. He exercised incredible courage every day by NOT taking his lfe.

Aug. 14 2014 12:01 PM
frances from Upper Manhattan

When a lifetime of sad feelings became a major depression, I almost didn't see the difference. All I knew was that one day I realized that the sight of daisies in grass and the sound of birds singing both made me weep. Blackness seemed to have formed around the edges of my world and was closing in. One day I suddenly couldn't stand being inside my house, which was completely uncharacteristic; usually I didn't want to leave it! I called a friend who could understand and we took a good long walk, after which I felt a lot better, but before I met her I had my first real hallucination; in the subway I was overcome by a physical sensation that no one could see me. I knew this was big trouble, but the walk also made realize that there was chemical component to this, i.e. it responded to exercise. Still, I suffered through another year before reaching out for help. Within a few days of starting an anti-depressant prescribed by a psychiatrist, the blackness lifted. That was nearly 20 yrs ago and with a great therapist and the same psycho-pharmacologist, plus some good sense and an upright piano, my life has gotten so much better and is now far more joyful than sad. But when you suffer prolonged blackness, things like logic, wisdom, compassion for self or others just aren't available to you. It was the certainty that I was in the grips of something chemical that got me to resist suicidal planning or the "I can do this" pull of the impulsive gesture of suicide. I refused to have my life path determined simply by emotional chemistry, as powerful as it could be. Mine will always be less stable than most people's, but I've developed strategies and it's much easier now to get through any episodes of darkness, which are now very rare.

Aug. 14 2014 11:44 AM
Roy from Queens

"Get a pet, a cat or dog will do wonders for you if you are depressed."

This "one size fits all" mentality has the same value as a three-dollar bill, and prolongs the absolute stigma towards mental illness.

Aug. 14 2014 11:40 AM
John Doe from Brooklyn

Suicide is brutal. You are killing the friend of your friends, the child of your parents, the parent of your children. With one act you kill all of those individuals.
Depression can be an experience of mental torture. And we understand when people are the recipients of abuse and torture, it can create numbness to the pain of others or even an enjoyment in it.
If a man beats his child- you can tell him that it's unfair with all the moral authority in the world. But will that be effective? A person suffering with depression may decide they haven't been given a fair life, so why should the people around them deserve any better fortune? When a sick mind can't generate compassion like a healthy mind- appealing to this sentiment is as naive as a victim making this argument to his abuser. This point is not to excuse brutality, but to understand the distorted perspective that facilitates it.

Aug. 14 2014 11:37 AM
Anonymous from Purgatorio

So much of this is simplistic BS.
Sorry, but if you haven't been there you cannot know.

Aug. 14 2014 11:36 AM
William from Manhattan

Holy smoke - twice in one year I find myself in full agreement with john from office! His is the most compassionate, level-headed, nonjudgmental comment I've heard in the wake of Mr. Williams's death. I would only add that in my case I needed highly skilled short-term psychiatric-psychopharmaceutical help to get that first good night's sleep. But that's covered in John's "reaching out for support."

Aug. 14 2014 11:35 AM
Ellen from NYC

I'm troubled by your choice of Ms. Hecht, unchallenged, to speak about suicide. She is a historian and philosopher, not a medical doctor or PhD in psychology. She is unqualified to diagnose Robin Williams or anyone else, and her contesting Williams's condition (was it depression or manic depression?) with one of your callers was arrogant and ignorant.

It seems to me that, at a time like this, when suicide is in the news, you have a duty to two audiences. One consists of people who do not suffer from mental illness but are trying to understand suicide from outside--these people can indeed be served by an outsider like Ms. Hecht. Your other audience, however, is made up of people who DO suffer from mental illness; who know more about depression and manic depression than Ms. Hecht ever will; and who can only be harmed by people like Ms. Hecht. A person deep in depression, let alone in crisis, does not have the capacity to step back and philosophize about his condition. That's the very definition of depression: one cannot see the possibility of an alternative way of feeling.

It was a terrible mistake not to present a medical professional alongside Ms. Hecht. I'll bet some of your audience is now in greater despair.

Aug. 14 2014 11:16 AM
decibelle from Long Island

I wish some attention might be paid to how chemicals in the environment, particularly pesticides, can negatively affect brain chemistry to the point of causing very severe suicidal depression. Some medications have this effect also. The solution in such a case is avoidance or elimination of exposure, not the mental exercises that this author advocates.

Aug. 14 2014 11:16 AM
Emma from Manhattan

Couldn´t we also argue how selfish it is that we want to keep alive someone we love even though they really want to go? If someone who is suicidal may find strength and motivation in being responsible towards others and actually is, wonderful; but if this person only feels this as a heavy weight making their lives more miserable, is it really fair to this person? If it just a phase, that we all go through, it makes a lot of sense to do all we can to stay alive and keep that loved one alive. But if it´s clinical depression or the kind of depression that has been present for many years and not being helped by medicine or any other way?

I have friends who grew up with a depressive parent, and they are depressed too and always cry about the environment they grew up in and the relationship with this particular parent.

My nieces´s father, whom they adored and who was a loving father, attempted suicide many times until he finally killed himself three years ago. As troubled as he was and with all the financial and emotional distress he created for his family, nobody wanted him gone, especially his daughters.

However, after three years of him being gone, you can see how they are faring much better, recovering from the many debts he left, not having to live with the constant emotional struggle. Can you really define the selfishness of suicide without a context and its actual effects?

Aug. 14 2014 11:08 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I've had 1 person in my life who killed himself & 1 who may have (it's unclear). It's devastating to the people who know them. I came to think of it as 1 mistake you can never learn from.

There's no point to blaming people who kill themselves (or thinking of it) of being cowards or not caring about other people. Being harsh to someone in a fragile mental state is never helpful.

I wonder if in a way being suicidal has something in common w/addictive disorders, in which people have to decide every day not to drink or use the drug: maybe people w/depression have to decide every day (or however often) not to kill themselves. These diseases often occur together. Maybe some of the treatments can be similar?

Finally, on assisted suicide, every law permitting it should require adequate treatment of depression & pain, & every news story about it should include discussion of treatment for both of those.

Aug. 14 2014 11:03 AM
Miscellaneous from NYC

Suicide is a peculiar animal in that the people who want to commit suicide have problems that they consider to be insurmountable and they want to escape from them on a permanent basis. It is narcissistic in a way, but only as viewed by the people who love them, or who are adversely affected by their loss. We, the living, cannot begin to understand what goes on in their minds before they kill themselves, or how much pain they are experiencing at the time. Is it, therefore, not equally narcissistic and presumptuous of us to prevent someone in that much pain from ending it? Especially for someone who has made multiple suicide attempts, that person must have some serious pain to try that hard to rid him/herself of it.

This is not to say that I advocate suicide, but, as with all deaths, we, the living, can go on; the suicides have achieved final relief from long term distress.

Aug. 14 2014 11:01 AM
SF from the UWS

I really appreciate the fact that you're having this discussion, but your guest is over-confident in her point of view. Her remarks about responsibility toward others are just too simplistic and fail to acknowledge the depth or even the nature of the despair that a suicidal person feels. Not that everyone who commits suicide feels exactly the same thing.

Aug. 14 2014 11:01 AM
Wendy from Manhattan

I have a nephew that committed suicide several summers ago. Two weeks prior to taking his life my nephew discussed it with his parents in his therapist's office. When his parents said, "You can't do that, we couldn't live if you killed yourself." He replied, "It's not about you, it's about me." Remembering this I believe that when a person is in such an extreme state they may be incapable of worring about anyone else or to think about any future for themselves let alone others. My nephew was a warm, loving, brilliant young man without drug or dependency problems. He had friends and girlfriends and acquaintances and family that adored him. I also remember that he said he would be in a group of good friends when all the others were there having fun, enjoying themselves and he said he felt nothing. Sadly he didn't tell his friends how he felt. My nephew never got a diagnosis that I am aware of, but I know he had a social anxiety disorder. He was able to help others like him but not himself. We miss him terribly every day. Even those who at times suffer from deep sadness know that sometimes the next morning or next week or next month can be bright. I hope and pray that those reading and listening to Brian Lehrer will follow his suggestion and get help. Thanks again for an important and timely show Brian.

Aug. 14 2014 10:59 AM
The Truth from Rebekkah

Your responsibility is to thyself and or thy higher power.

Not everyone is mentally sound, I have seen it here on this board.

Some people are literally unable to cope with life and so they check out.

Mental illness is real people.

Aug. 14 2014 10:57 AM
Moxie from Nyc

This guest is not a professional anything. She's just pushing her book and unfortunately you, Brian, are her enabler.

Aug. 14 2014 10:57 AM

Two thoughts:

I rarely say this about a guest, but this woman is so not helpful. When you are in the pits of depression, hearing a voice like Ms. Hecht's is just like hearing another reminder that you are failing in this world, that you are selfish because you are unable to think of others. Of course I agree with her that there are many reasons to live, but the way our society is organized (free-market, individualistic) it can be very hard to get the kind of help someone needs to stick it out, and reminders of your obligations just make you feel more beleaguered by the world. In our typical environments, people are received as kiljoys for expressing feelings of sadness or doubt. A lot of people feel like it is a sign of weakness even to confide privately to a therapist or a group therapy group and don't seek out therapy until they are on the brink (especially men). This is because we are not encouraged to identify our negative feelings and be honest with ourselves and others about them.

People look like an accomplished man like Robin Williams and say, "He was so successful, he had so much. How could he do it?" Of course, I didn't know Robin Williams and can't say anything about his motives personally, but people who are driven to achieve are often doing it for a kind of love that is contingent on others, not oneself. Here's something from Alice Miller's Drama of the Gifted Child that I often think of when I hear about very successful people who are suffering inside (and that I identify with myself).

“The grandiose person is never really free; first because he is excessively dependent on admiration from others, and second, because his self-respect is dependent on qualities, functions, and achievements that can suddenly fail.”

Aug. 14 2014 10:56 AM

Who's on next, Dr. Drew?

Aug. 14 2014 10:54 AM
tracy from Greenwich CT

Robin Williams did have bipolar disorder. It is documented in books and in news reports by close friends who knew him. Just because he never admitted it publicly, does not mean he did not suffer from it. As someone else stated, there is such stigma around mental illness.

Your guest was an unfortunate choice...she isn't even a clinical psychologist. Just an author of a historical book about suicide.

Aug. 14 2014 10:52 AM
Joyce from NYC

I am bothered by those who use this to say -- "this can be fixed if --- you know, social acceptance to mental illness, etc, etc.

We might also realize that life is rich and complicated. And includes all kinds of things we might be temped to label as "negative.

Aug. 14 2014 10:51 AM
Walter from Across the Hudson

I find this "expert" quite offensive. I hope you continue to explore the topic, Brian, but she is not the person to address the issue despite the university press publication and PhD in history of science (?).

Aug. 14 2014 10:51 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Let me brake it all down simply:

We have NO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO THOSE who are suffering, living in grinding poverty, being oppressed, imprisoned, murdered, tortured or institutionalized but THOSE people are RESPONSIBLE TO US and must not commit suicide else WE might feel bad. No, no hypocrisy there at all...

How is it that human misery is just the "cost of doing business" but suicide is somehow an antisocial act? I mean WTF...

Aug. 14 2014 10:50 AM
Anonymous from Westchester

According to her Amazon page, Ms. Hecht has written 4 books of history and philosophy, and 3 books of poetry. She's not a medical doctor; her PhD is in history of science and European cultural history. Why do you treat her as more of an expert than the caller who actually has the disease? From my unfortunately long experience dealing with depression, the caller was exactly right, and the guest is just spouting bromides about something she doesn't really understand. Please don't have her back

Aug. 14 2014 10:50 AM
Julia from Nyc

I am a 36 year old woman living with depression and bipolar disorder. Luckily I have found a psychiatrist who has brought be back to myself and I thrive. But I have had two near suicide events. 2 things saved me: 1) I couldn't bear the guilt of what it would do to those I left behind. And 2) I had a lifeline. In AA you have a sponsor you call before you slip up who has no judgements and can talk you through it. A therapist in college had me choose a lifeline and I had to have her agree to be that lifeline. To not judge and to be calm and to talk me through the moment. That person was my mother, also a sufferer of depression. This has saved my life.

Aug. 14 2014 10:50 AM
Rob N from Ridgewood

Hi, I just wanted to bring up that Robin had a significant struggle with addiction, both with alcohol and cocaine, and in recent years had said he had cleaned up. Perhaps the difficulty of dealing with the world as a recovering addict and not having those former crutches to lean on was a contributing factor in his decision to end his life. I would appreciate hearing Ms. Hecht's thoughts on this.

Aug. 14 2014 10:50 AM
Rick from Brooklyn

Who does this Jennifer Hecht think she is???
Apparently Robin Williams didn't even have an ownership over his own life??? What- he had more responsibility to society than his own life???
Certainly her approach pushes me into turmoil. This Jennifer lacks compassion, and leverages guilt.
PATHETIC GUEST. Next time bring on a mental health professional when speaking to mental health experiences, not a social scientist, that speaks to patently obvious and unhelpful social concepts.

Aug. 14 2014 10:49 AM
Meredith from Brooklyn

I just have to say that I am not happy that you are interviewing someone who is not an actual expert on the subject of suicide. She may have researched the subject, but she is not an expert. Call the medical director from AFSP to get up to date information and answers we can believe in.

Aug. 14 2014 10:48 AM
Ana from Rockaway Beach

I strongly disagree that celebrities have more responsibility than others not to commit suicide. Do pop stars with cancer have more responsibility than others not to relapse? Do celebrity athletes with diabetes owe us some stability in their blood sugar? Robin Williams didn't owe us any recovery or treatment or remission. He was dealing with addiction and depression. He didn't owe us a thing and neither does anyone else because s/he is famous.

Aug. 14 2014 10:48 AM

Oh, please. No one has a responsibility to live any longer than he cares to.

Mind your own damn business.

Aug. 14 2014 10:48 AM

A few years ago things were bad. I had been unemployed for several years, was injured during that time that even prevented me from working my part-time retail job. I eventually got a job in a city far from family and friends. I was miserable. I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. Although I couldn't go through with suicide, I did want it all to end. An acquaintance at the time was killed in a horrible accident by a drunk truck driver. I was so sad and angry that this happened to her, but I also found myself wondering quite often - why can't that happen to me?
Fast forward a few years and life is great. I got out of that horrible city and moved back to NYC near friends and family and have a great job.
It's hard to imagine now that I truly did want it all to end.

Aug. 14 2014 10:48 AM
Mielen from NYC

Robin Williams often talked about his depression. I remember seeing him on Oprah with Billy Crystal looking and sounding so sad while discussing his struggle. Unfortunately it got glossed over because it was supposed to be a happy/funny show that day. I think he was on medication, but he felt a little dead and was struggling to find a balance.

Aug. 14 2014 10:46 AM
Marie from NYC

I am absolutely baffled at all the gnashing of teeth surrounding Robin Williams' suicide. For the rest of us who suffer from depression, even as children (!), we are told to "stop feeling sorry for ourselves," and other nonsense. With the for-profit health industry, psychological help is often not affordable, and not everyone wants to rely on a pill forevermore. And seeking psychological help can be used against you in custody battles, or even employment. Sorry for my lack of sympathy, but all this fuss about a substance-abusing, alcoholic celebrity who had so much more than 99% of the rest of the people on the planet, is not going to change anything for the rest of us non-drug-abusing depressives who face constant scorn from our families and "friends" as we continue to struggle through our daily lives.

Aug. 14 2014 10:44 AM
James D'Addio from nyc

of course it is chemical and the adjustment would have affected his performance your quest is wrong about normal folks having a bad monent is wrong

Aug. 14 2014 10:44 AM
tom from Astoria

As a full time artist -- a person who depends on creative ingenuity, I find that when Im down, I bring intense creativity to arguments to the negative. It does seem to be a bipolar thing: Up to the heights of creative possibility and down to depths of destructive thought.

Aug. 14 2014 10:44 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Terry Gross re-ran her interview with Williams after his death. She asked about clinical depression and he denied ever being clinically depressed. Whether you see this as truth or denial, it's interesting.

Aug. 14 2014 10:44 AM

also, how many failed suicides don't then become forcibly institutionalized in a "chemical gulag";often having their lives destroyed,or at the very least stripped of all human dignity.

Aug. 14 2014 10:44 AM

I wish Ms. Hecht would talk about the genetic links to suicide. My family has three people who committed suicide, My Aunt, my cousin and her son.

Aug. 14 2014 10:44 AM
Moxie from Nyc

Bi polar caller was correct. But by any other name it's still the same.

Aug. 14 2014 10:44 AM
Bob from Westchester

You should also play the excerpt from Mr. Williams' 2006 interview with Terry Gross, where he denies ever being clinically depressed while acknowledging all the classic symptoms.

Aug. 14 2014 10:42 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

These mythical "responsibilities" to other people that are constantly alluded to in this segment - what are they exactly? Do they extend to the poor and homeless? To the psychopaths, rapists and murderers? To the humans in other countries who are merely the "collateral damage" of our corrupt political process? To the terminally ill, the permanently disabled? Break it all down for us since YOU HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS!

This segment is simply self serving verbiage filled with emotivist, garbage quality rhetoric. Valuing one's own life is the most important job we have and no one else can or should do it for us.

Aug. 14 2014 10:40 AM

It was a mask Brian

Aug. 14 2014 10:39 AM

Did your wife commit suicide? If so why not talk about that now?Brian.

Aug. 14 2014 10:36 AM
Aggie from Bronx

ANY death affects the family and the community!
If people saw the emotional and psychological PAIN and understood it to be as unendurable as physical pain, people might understand this differently. When someone is in deep physical pain and choose not to continue medical treatment or to end their life, people have more understanding and compassion.

Aug. 14 2014 10:36 AM
Nick from UWS

I sadly regret that Robin Williams did not in his darkest hour draw strength and inspiration and example from his idol and mentor Jonathan Winters. Winters, a man of immense originality and creative power also struggled all his life with severe mental health issues and alcohol, but survived it and lived a long and productive life. Of course Winters was a member of what we call the "greatest generation", a military veteran, and a man who had a lifelong stable marriage....he appeared to be despite his suffering a man of enormous strength of character. It often seems that many more modern people lack this level of core strength.

Aug. 14 2014 10:36 AM

Our family recently (8/7) experienced a suicide and I appreciate your willingness to have this conversation. I recently learned 70% of the suicides in this country are white males and there are 38,000 suicides in the US each year.

Aug. 14 2014 10:35 AM
john from office

Mr. Bad, so every teenager should be allowed to kill themselves when they want??

Every teenager has some event that seems insurmountable.

Aug. 14 2014 10:35 AM
J from Brooklyn

Suicide shaming in no way reduces the despair and pain that drives these deaths. It just makes people feel smug and morally superior.

Berating the dead or shaming those considering this option does not contribute to a reduction in death.

Addressing the pain, highlighting the reasons to live -- these are far more helpful and productive.

Aug. 14 2014 10:35 AM
Jen from Hamilton Heights

I find this suicide fascinating, because clearly Robin Williams has resources that many of us don't have - family - money - career - and it boggles my mind that even with these resources, he still felt so depressed he had to end his life.

Aug. 14 2014 10:34 AM

Life is ALWAYS better than the alternative. I've been suicidal and, believe me, the strong person finds a reason to live!

Aug. 14 2014 10:33 AM

beware of simple answers to complex questions. Just because a pet might help, doesn't mean that just telling someone to get one, will make them do it. But thanks for treating the symptom, and not the core problem.

Aug. 14 2014 10:33 AM
BigGuy from Forest Hills

People of means can get help to transform depression into everyday unhappiness.

Aug. 14 2014 10:32 AM

I have lost multiple people in my life to suicide and think we need to talk about suicide more. We have to remove the shame that has historically been connected with suicidal acts and thoughts.

Aug. 14 2014 10:32 AM

our taboo against suicide,doesn't of necessity come from a "Holy" place. i believe much of it is simply the intersect of Judeo-Christian dogma, and the obscene commodification of American life. the state wants to exploit our perfunctory duty to consume.

Aug. 14 2014 10:32 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Suicide is a natural right and it should be codified in law. Forget "philosophy" and all the maudlin hand wringing about how "sad" it makes other people. Those people are selfish, stupid morons. Forcing people to continue to live when they no longer wish to is simply slavery.

Aug. 14 2014 10:28 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Suicide is a natural right and it should be codified in law. Forget "philosophy" and all the maudlin hand wringing about how "sad" it makes other people. Those people are selfish, stupid morons. Forcing people to continue to live when they no longer wish to is simply slavery.

Aug. 14 2014 10:28 AM
john from office

Rick you don't know what you are talking about, trust me.

A pet has been shown to help depression, PTSD and other emotional issues.

Aug. 14 2014 10:28 AM
Rick V from Livingston NJ

Get a pet??? Really??? Any person who seriously contemplates ending their life is dealing with much more than just the blues. People with children, spouses, career success, financial stability commit suicide. Your suggestion is quite an over simplification of a person's mental health struggle.

Aug. 14 2014 10:02 AM
john from office

Suicide is not the answer. The momentary feeling is powerful, when one is depressed. But, giving yourself time and reaching out for support will allow you to realize that there is always another day. The issue that seems so important can shrink to insignificance with a good night's sleep.

Get a pet, a cat or dog will do wonders for you if you are depressed.

Aug. 14 2014 07:06 AM

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