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Mental Health in Focus After Robin Williams' Suicide

PHOTO: Robin Williams was known during his life as a brilliant comedian and actor. Advocates for mental health say his tragic death could serve to bring greater understanding to the issues of mental illness. Photo credit: U-S Department of Defense.
PHOTO: Robin Williams was known during his life as a brilliant comedian and actor. Advocates for mental health say his tragic death could serve to bring greater understanding to the issues of mental illness. Photo credit: U-S Department of Defense.
August 14, 2014

PHOENIX - The suicide death of Robin Williams this week may serve as a powerful and tragic reminder for Arizonans and people everywhere that mental illness does not discriminate. Steve Schiro, chairman of the Arizona chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says Robin Williams' death highlights the secrecy and stigma that still accompany mental illness.

"Until we begin to treat both the physical and mental aspects as part of health in general, we'll continue to have a problem fighting mental illness," Schiro said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans, with nearly 40,000 reported cases each year.

Police say Williams, 63, ended his life at his home in Northern California on Monday following an intense battle with depression. Schiro says depression, bipolar disorder and other forms of mental illness can affect anyone.

"It doesn't matter if they're rich or famous or poor, mental illness is a disease," he says.

The CDC estimates that someone in America dies from suicide almost every 14 minutes. Schiro says anyone suffering with mental illness should reach out for help as soon as possible. Help is available 24 hours per day by calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-784-2433.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ