Robin Williams' suicide opens door to discussion

Robin Williams' suicide opens door to discussion
Those who knew him said Robin Williams suffered from severe depression. The medical examiner confirmed he committed suicide.

"Really, when you are that depressed, you are being mentally tortured. Your brain is torturing you," said Marya Grambs, executive director of Mental Health America of Hawaii.

Grambs is a suicide survivor. She tried to kill herself twice. She said depression leaves a footprint.

"There are signs that the person isn't sleeping or is sleeping all the time. The person is sad or crying or saying things like, 'People would be better off without me' or 'I'm such a burden,'" she said.

Williams, 63, battled alcohol and substance abuse. Quite often they are depression's companions. Other signs are loss of appetite and trouble at work or school.

"Some people don't want to talk to someone close to them," said Pua Kaninau-Santos of the Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center.

Her son killed himself five days after his eighteenth birthday. That was eleven years ago. She helps families scarred by suicide.

"I highly suggest that they find some way to be able to embrace their loss, to be able to grieve, to be able to share their story to others," Kaninau-Santos said.

Grambs said helping someone you suspect is depressed and suicidal begins with a question.

"You have to ask, 'Do you feel like killing yourself? Are you thinking about killing yourself?'" she said.

If the answer is yes, call a suicide crisis hotline, find a counselor, a doctor, or a faith-based group that specializes in suicide prevention.

Grambs admits she still struggles with anxiety. Medication has kept her depression away for years. Her story is a story of hope.

"It doesn't have to be a lifelong battle," she said. "The more of us who can talk about our mental illness and talk about our depression, and talk about the fact that we've been suicidal, it breaks open the silence. It's nothing to be ashamed of," she said.

If you need help, call the Suicide Crisis Hotline at 832-3100. On the neighbor islands the number is 1-800-753-6879.

The Hawaii Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is organizing events on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui. For more information on the Out of the Darkness Community Walks go to

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