Albany County has always been proactive when it comes to unveiling new services and campaigns to better the lives of its residents. At times, it can seem a little too proactive, pushing issues like the e-cig ban and a major campaign to show people how babies should be sleeping. All of this can make the county feel like an overzealous nanny trying too hard to protect us from ourselves.
But at other times, those initiatives can provide a very real lifeline to those who desperately need it.
On Aug. 12, County Executive Dan McCoy announced that the county is going to debut a smart phone application that will provide people with information about suicide prevention so they can help those who are on the brink. The app arms people with resources to contact, who then can assist those whose depression has become too great for them to handle.
The announcement happened on the heels of Robin Williams’ Aug. 11 suicide in his California home. Though you have to wonder if the announcement was in response to the famed comedic actor’s death or merely a coincidence, the timing of the app couldn’t have been better.
No one – not even those closest to Williams – saw his death coming. That was made clear by the number of messages and Tweets from Hollywood celebrities who had worked with Williams, nearly all of which included terms like “shocked” and “deeply saddened.” Many similar messages came from the legions of Williams’ fans, who had a hard time believing someone so full of energy and quick wit could decide to end his life by his own hands.
Such deep depression isn’t always easy to see, though. Some people are able to hide their sadness so well that you couldn’t tell if someone was considering the possibility of taking his or her own life. Williams managed to mask his depression well, even as his later comedy routines included admissions that he was an alcoholic and, before that, a drug addict.
This is why Albany County’s app could be a lifesaver. If someone sees or suspects that a person close to them is having a rough time, they can consult the app to look or listen for signs of depression and take action, if needed. And to have that information at their fingertips is a time saver, too.
Depression can make a person feel isolated from the world and make them believe that things would be better if they weren’t around. It’s that rationale that leads to suicide. What Albany County is doing will make it easier for its residents to recognize when depression has set in for someone and help them take action so that person doesn’t become another statistic.
Now that Robin Williams is gone, perhaps his legacy won’t just be about the many laughs he generated and the numerous memorable roles he created in his career. Maybe it will also be about the lives he saved when he couldn’t save his own.