Crisis Center calls increase following Robin William's death

Reported by: Terri Hendry
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Updated: 8/12/2014 6:17 pm
Reno, Nev. ( & KRNV)-- The Crisis Call Center is receiving an increase in calls following the death of Oscar-winning actor and comedian, Robin Williams. Williams died August 11, 2014 at his home in Tiburon, California. The Marion County sheriff's office said in a statement it "suspects the death to be a suicide, due to asphysia."

Justine Hernandez, who is a Suicide Prevention Outreach Specialist with the Crisis Call Center said she suspects the increase in activity at the center is because William's death is raising awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. She said Williams was beloved and his death may open a door to discussion about depression and suicide. Hernandez said, "A lot of times we really don't talk about these sensitive topics. Depression and mental illness, in general, are kind of stigmatized in our society so something like this does bring to light things we don't talk about very often." 

Kristen Davis-Coelho, Ph.D., is a Supervisor and Clinical Psychologist with the Reno Veteran's Hospital. She said William's death was a topic of discussion today. "Certainly in the community and even among collegues it has come up because he was such a beloved figure for so many people and for so long," she said.

Talking about depression and reaching out to get help is important. The experts say what is so tragic about suicide is in many cases, it can be prevented. Hernandez said, "The really important thing about suicide is it is not about wanting to die." She added, "It's just wanting to end the pain, whether it is physical or emotional pain. They just want someone to understand that they don't want to feel this way anymore." 

David-Coelho said a common denominator in depression is the feeling that the emotion is permenant. She said, "It feels like you can look back on your life and you've always felt this way. You can look forward and you feel like you're always going to feel this way." She cautioned, "But the reality is you're not always going to feel this way. Unfortunately when you're in the midst of it, you have blinders on and can't see at all." She recommended those who suffer from depression keep a "mood journal" so they can see physical evidence mood swings are cyclical. 

Increased awareness may also help some people reach out for help who otherwise might not ask for it. Hernandez said William's death provides an opportunity to educate and inform about depression so there is an understanding it is an illness. She said, "There's nothing wrong with you. You haven't done anything wrong. This isn't a flaw in your character. You're not weak because of this. You have an illness." She said those suffering from depression have a real, physical illness. "If you had cancer, we would encourage you to see a doctor, get the help, take the medications, talk to somebody. The same thing is true with someone who has a mental illness, like depression," she said.

Davis-Coelho said some of the warning signs include making statements about wanting to die. "As obvious as it sounds, you need to pay attention if a person is talking about killing themselves or wishing they wouldn't wake up in the morning or they're ok if it's 'their time'." She said research shows 50 to 70 percent of those who attempt suicide talked about it before-hand. Other warning signs include activity indicating one is planning a suicide such as buying a gun, stashing away medications, or taking steps to become more isolated. 

Hernandez said the Crisis Call Center is ready to provide resources and comfort. She said, "The one thing to remember is you're not alone. So many people suffer from depression." 

If you or a loved one is suffering, there are many resources available. The Crisis Call Center number is 1-800-273-8255. You can call anytime, day or night.  

For more information on mental health and resources available for veterans visit the Reno Veteran's Hospital website. 

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