Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Actor Robin Williams and his daughter Zelda pose on arrival for the world premiere of the movie 'Happy Feet Two' in Hollywood on November 13, 2011 in southern California. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)      Article is here

Robin Williams' Star Power Shines Light on Suicide, Depression 

TALLAHASSEE, FL - As details emerge about the reported suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams on Monday, family members and friends acknowledge he was suffering from a long battle with depression. Many Florida families suffer the same anguish, and suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in the state.

Betsey Westuba, who chairs the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition, said she hopes Williams' death serves as a reminder to help people who may be suffering from depression.

"It's a biological disease," she said. "Just as we have bodily diseases, we have brain diseases - and, so often, people don't want to acknowledge that."

Last year, more than 2,800 Floridians committed suicide, or about eight people a day. It is the second leading cause of death for people ages 25 to 34.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline has help available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. Warning signs that someone may be experiencing suicidal thoughts include a sense of hopelessness, apathy and extreme changes in behavior.

Westuba said she has a family history of depression, and a brother who committed suicide in 2007.

"Remember that there are many, many people that go through depression, but they are able to get through it," she said. "We can help to teach each other skills. We need to educate each other."

Mental-health experts recommend reaching out to people who may be suffering from depression. She said pets sometimes lift the spirits of those who are depressed, and making future plans may help provide them with a sense of hope.

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