Call 9-8-8.

A business associate killed himself not long ago. He used a gun, which means it was more than a cry for help.

I had seen him at a professional conference two months before and all seemed fine. We had a pleasant conversation and I even complimented him on the PowerPoint he had developed for his presentation.

This gentleman was in his late 50s, divorced, one adult son. He was intelligent and soft-spoken. We had collaborated on a number of projects over the years and I found him easy to work with. I can only imagine the pain he was going through that compelled him to do whatever he deemed necessary to make it stop.

Here’s what I keep thinking. From this point on, as long as people remember him, the end of his life will be what defines his life. It essentially nullifies everything that came before. This individual  could have been a caring father, an attentive spouse, an outstanding citizen of his community. None of that matters. He will forever be known as the guy who killed himself.

My father’s Uncle Norman was, by all accounts, a fine man, someone who went out of his way to help my father as a child of the Great Depression, while everyone else ignored him or worse. Sadly, Norman took a shotgun to his head after a series of business reversals that left him penniless. Whenever my father spoke about him, he used a tone approaching reverence. And yet, every story started the same: “My Uncle Norman, who killed himself . . . ”

The same with Robin Williams. When I watch one of his movies, all I can think of is, that poor bastard committed suicide. I’m not judging here; by all accounts, the last years of his life were physically, mentally and emotionally arduous. But I can’t get that final image out of my mind.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve heard that people contemplating suicide feel as if they have no one to talk to, no one who can possibly understand. Yet, resources abound. Recently, the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline activated a toll-free hotline number accessible from anywhere in the United States, offering professional counseling 24/7 to anyone calling 9-8-8. Please jot it down and keep it in your wallet or purse. Better yet, program it into your phone. You never know when an acquaintance, colleague, friend, or family member might need it.

Or maybe that person is you.