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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

What Robin Williams' death can teach us about treating depression

Compiled by Chandra Johnson, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Wed, Aug. 20 12:15 p.m. MDT

 Robin Williams appears on stage at Comedy Central's  'Night Of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert For Autism Education' at the Beacon Theatre in New York, Saturday, October 2, 2010.

Robin Williams appears on stage at Comedy Central's 'Night Of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert For Autism Education' at the Beacon Theatre in New York, Saturday, October 2, 2010.

(Charles Sykes, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Millions took to the Internet on Monday night to remember actor-comedian Robin Williams, who died at age 63 in a suspected suicide.

Williams was best known for his stand-up and comedic roles that defined his career, and, while he admitted to a lifelong struggle with depression and addiction, many were shocked by his sudden death.

"I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul," fellow comedian Steve Martin tweeted.

But the media hasn't just played a role in helping people grieve the "Aladdin" legend; it's also used Williams' death as a chance to talk about suicide prevention and depression.

The coverage can hopefully add something constructive to the tidal wave of media attention, which The Huffington Post reported can sometimes lead to more suicides, especially among young people. One study published earlier this year found that high-intensity news coverage of individual suicides contributed to teen suicides in the 1980s and 1990s.

Reddit voluntarily edited Williams' Reddit "Ask Me Anything" from this year to include suicide prevention hotlines.

"Reddit is often criticised as a hotbed of bullying and abuse but, for this small but incredibly sensitive gesture, they deserve applause for today at least. Kudos, Reddit," Pando writer Paul Carr wrote.

Forbes also ran a piece offering solutions to help prevent suicide and painting Williams' suicide as a reminder that depression knows no age.

"Our picture of suicide often tends to be young, like Kurt Cobain or Sylvia Plath. That probably comes from our tendency to romanticize depression, a deadly disease that is not romantic," Forbes' Matthew Herper wrote. "William(s)’s life brought millions of people laughter and catharsis. His death robs us of that, and robs his family of him. If any good can come of this, it might be to remind us that people of any age can be suicidal."

Are you or someone you know depressed or having suicidal thoughts? Check the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's warning signs.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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1. USAlover
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 20, 2014

The DNews is doing a good thing focusing on the prevalence and reality of depression. It's common, devastating, and real...and it doesn't mean you're going crazy. When the stigma that is attached to depression finally dissolves, we'll start to see real advances in treatment and cures.