Smart Talk: Suicide and mental illness


The tragic death of comedian and actor Robin Williams has brought much attention to suicide and mental illness.

With almost 37,000 people dying by suicide each year, it is the tenth leading cause of death in the country.

As a man over the age of 45, Williams also is part of the largest category of suicide victims.

Additionally, research findings point out that mental disorders and/or substance abuse have been found in 90% of deaths by suicide. However, professionals say if these illnesses are recognized and treated properly, suicide and its effects on loved ones can be prevented.

On this Smart Talk, we’ll talk about depression and other leading contributors to suicide, look at the possible warning signs of suicide, and discuss how to prevent or get help if someone is considering ending their life.

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Dr. Dale Adair, Govan Martin, and Rebecca May-Cole

Joining us in the Smart Talk studio are Dr. Dale Adair, a psychiatrist, who serves as the Chief Medical Officer for the state mental hospital system and the Co-Chairs of the PA Adult/Older Adult Suicide Prevention Coalition, Govan Martin and Rebecca May-Cole, who will provide insight about this public health problem and the resources available.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.

What To Do

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

Michael Williams
Michael Williams

Multimedia Producer at WITF

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