Sometimes, even when people are in trouble, to the point of harming themselves, they will still put on the glad face when someone who cares reaches out, even if they're standing on the precipice.
True story: in college, I met the friend of a friend, who was visiting Binghamton from New Paltz. We hit it off, conversationally; truth be told, I was smitten. We began exchanging letters on a fairly regular basis. She was funny and smart and artistic, and our letters were very open - open to the point that I knew she had demons, and things that haunted her; and she, me.
One Friday, I stopped by my mailbox and found a letter from her; and this was a rock-bottom letter. I read it, read it again, and decided to call her. I was that concerned about her, based on what she'd written - we're talking "wish I could just close my eyes and have the pain go away" talk.
I dialed her number, she got on the phone, and I told her that her letter had worried me, and I was headed east to home for the weekend (a lie, but Home was 40 minutes from New Paltz, and Binghamton was three hours from home - easy to engineer a visit on short notice) and wanted to pop in and talk.
And she chuckled and said no, she'd just been in a bad patch when she wrote me, and she was fine, and was going to be running around all weekend, so it wasn't going to be great for her, but she was really glad I was worried enough to call, and she was sorry to have worried me. And we rang off.
And, reassured, I bought it.
I mailed letters into the void, without response, for the next six months. And my occasional call went unanswered. And six months later, when I was beginning to fear the worst, she wrote me to tell me that the day after we spoke, she tried to overdose, and she'd been institutionalized in the aftermath.
She got lucky. She survived. And last I heard (we lost touch some time ago - longer story), she was married and employed as a teacher, and it sounded like she was doing well at life.
But for years - YEARS - after I got the letter from the institution, I blamed myself for believing her, for not saying "fuck it" and following my gut and going to see her anyway; and over time, I realized that for some people dealing with depression, 'Being On' for people who care about them is almost autonomic - "no, I'm fine, just a bad day" when it's so much worse. It is entirely possible that at his worst, Robin was still capable of being "On" and that he could have sold that he was fine to the people who loved him. A call from Harlan, or anyone who loved Robin dearly, even at the perfect moment, might only have prolonged the moment of action. There's no guarantee anyone could have said anything to prevent what happened.
And this is one of the terrible things about depression: it may recognize love and care and concern, but even those things take a back seat the the illusion, the sheen of uselessness and regret and failure and "why bother?" And the only weapon we have is to love harder, and better, and with more understanding of the big picture. Because in the end, we all only have each other.