Robin Williams' Death Shines Light On Depression, Suicide

Whether at home or the office, when you hear people talking about mental illness or suicide it's usually with hushed or whispered voices.

That a "universally beloved" entertainer like Robin Williams could commit suicide "speaks to the power of psychiatric illness," mental health experts say.

Robin Williams, who died Monday at age 63, had some of the risk factors for suicide: He was known to have bipolar disorder, depression and drug abuse problems, said Julie Cerel, a psychologist and board chair of American Association of Suicidology.

Related: Actor, Comedian Robin Williams Found Dead

About 90% of people who commit suicide have some kind of psychiatric illness that's typically untreated or "undertreated," she said.

Cerel said the impact of suicide ripples far beyond immediate family members.

"Friends, people in our social network, even when it's people on TV, it really affects us all," she said. "Even though most of us don't know him directly, he's someone who's entertained us, and (his death) will have an effect on us and will make us think of others who've died."

The fact that someone as successful as Williams could kill himself shows that suicide is "not about objective markers of happiness and success," said Dost Ongur, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of the psychotic disorders division at McLean Hospital outside of Boston.


Sandhills Center 1-800-256-2452 (24/7 information, screening and referral line)

Cone Behavioral Health Assessment Unit 336-832-9700

Monarch (Formerly the Guilford Center) Referral line 336-676-6849

Therapeutic Alternatives 24/7 Crisis Intervention 1-877-626-1772

Davidson Co: Daymark 1-800-939-5911

Alamance Co: Cardinal Innovations 1-888-213-9687

National Suicide Help Line 1 - 800- SUICIDE (784-2433)1-800-273-TALK (8255)

En Espanol 1-800-SUICIDA (273-2432)


Mental Health Screening Tools

Mental Health Association in Forsyth County

Mental Health America

Some numbers on suicide (Source: American Association of Suicidology):

Facts: Suicide At A Glance

– 39,518 people died by suicide in the U.S. (2011)

– 108.3 per day

– 1 person every 13.3 minutes

– 3.6 male deaths for each female death by suicide

Comparison to other highly publicized causes of death per year:

• Homicide 16,238

• Prostate Cancer 32,050

• Motor Vehicle Accidents 35,303

• Suicide 39,518

• Breast Cancer 39,520

By age:

Middle age (45-64 years): 18.6 per 100,000,

Elderly: 15.3 per 100,000

Teens (15-24) is 11 per 100,000.

(The rate for middle aged has been increasing and surpassed the rate for elderly a few years ago.)

The national suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment