Icon's Suicide Highlights Mental Health & Suicide Risks

By Staci DaSilva | sdasilva@nexstar.tv

Published 08/12 2014 06:57PM

Updated 08/12 2014 07:15PM

We have new details about the death of Robin Williams.

Medical examiners released his cause of death on Tuesday. The award-winning actor was found dead in his northern California home on Monday. Autopsy results show he took his own life by hanging.

Williams was suffering from severe depression and substance abuse, showing, once again, that mental illness knows no boundaries.

“His mind was just so, sort of, crazily beautiful,” said Nathan Hartswick, an actor.

Vermont performers Nathan Hartswick and his wife, Natalie Miller say they became comedians because of Robin Williams. “It starts with Aladdin when we were kids and it ends with me seeing his Broadway show and going, 'I want to be on stage',” said Hartswick.

Williams was an actor full of heart, but also, a man with very real struggles. Hartswick says it's not uncommon with performers.

“Creative people who put it all out there, often times, they're outliers themselves,” said Hartswick. “They're observers of society and they're standing on the outside looking in. But they're also fighting their own demons because they're on the outside of things."

“There is a certain expectation where when you go out in public, people expect you to be on,” said Natalie Miller. “And that's really exhausting sometimes."

The truth is mental illness does not discriminate. It affects a wide-range of people from a star like Williams to a well-known Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna who took her own life a few weeks ago.

“Suicidal behavior cuts across socioeconomic class,” explains Charlie Biss, with the Vermont Department of Mental Health. “It cuts across professions. It's really the makeup of that individual. I think what we've heard in the news recently is some people who have felt very long-term, chronic depression."

Biss says the state has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. On average, 90 people have died by suicide every year since 2000.

It's similar across the lake. The suicide rate in the North Country is higher than the rest of New York state.

Biss laid out 3 signs you should look out for in yourself or your loved ones: hopelessness, disconnection and willing to take risks when it comes to death.

If you need help, call 211 or 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Hotline, turn to your regional mental health center or online campaigns, like http://www.youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

“Human contact can really make a big difference. And human contact, not meaning a professional necessarily, but meaning any of us can help," said Biss.

Here are some more resources if you’re looking for help for yourself or a loved one:

According to the CDC, 1 in 10 Americans suffer depression.  http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/.

What is depression? http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression (Anxiety and Depression Association of America Anxiety and Depression Association of America)

Suicide Crisis Telephone numbers for NY: https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/speak/speakcrisisnumbers.asp

Vermont numbers: http://healthvermont.gov/family/injury/suicide_prevent.aspx


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