Spike in calls for help over Robin Williams' suicide

By Gary Fox

merican actor and comedian Robin Williams. Photo / Martin Sykes
merican actor and comedian Robin Williams. Photo / Martin Sykes

New Zealand's Mental Health Foundation says it has received an unprecedented number of calls from distressed members of the public following Robin Williams' death.

The actor and stand-up comic was found dead from an apparent suicide in his California home yesterday.

The story of his sudden death and the many tributes to him have made front pages and led news bulletins around the world.

"There can be a connection between a celebrity suicide and an increased rate of suicide," Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said today.

She had never seen as many calls to the Foundation. Many of the callers were people who had been affected by suicide, and the reporting of Williams' death had brought back great grief or loss for them, she said.

The organisation behind the Oscars - the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - sent out a tweet following Williams' death saying "Genie, you're free", which by this afternoon had been shared more than 300,000 times and potentially viewed by thousands more.

There have been concerns raised by mental health professionals worldwide over the tweet's suggestion that suicide was a form of liberation.

Nobody should ever encourage or even hint at the notion that suicide was an option, Ms Clements said.

People must realise that death was a tragic loss in any situation, whether the person was high or low profile. Family, friends and the wider community could be severely affected by a suicide, she said.

Ms Clements encouraged anyone feeling down to talk about their feelings. Encouraging others was great therapy for those who had been depressed and for those who currently were, she said.

"There is always hope, always recovery for people who've been in desperate places and have found their way through it."

"There is help out there to turn to. Friends; people who care."

The Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812) will refer callers to some of the helplines below:

• Lifeline - 0800 543 354
• Depression Helpline (8 am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
• Healthline - 0800 611 116
• Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
• Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

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The Mental Health Foundation said a sector of our society particularly vulnerable to depression were men aged 45-65. Robin Williams was 63.

- APNZ

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