Crisis calls to 211, Palm Beach County’s HelpLine, about depression are on the rise since Robin Williams’ death captured the public’s attention. 211 calls related to suicide and mental stress are up significantly, and experts point to greater public awareness since the comedian’s suicide.
The average daily number of suicide calls increased by 61 percent in the days after Robin Williams’ death.
“We are surprised by the diversity of calls coming in… people of all ages, background and professions,” said Patrice Schroeder, public information officer for 211. “Many seem to identify with Robin Williams’ depression — that they, too, put on an appearance of being ‘happy-go-lucky’ while struggling with deep depression.”
Caller stories include some who were spurred to take a closer look at their own mental health and depression. Some were calling because they, too, had thought of suicide and were reaching out for guidance and support.
Some people simply called to share their condolences for his family. One caller had lost a daughter to suicide and wanted to share sorrow and sympathy for the Williams family.
211’s staff members are able to listen and help individuals with their concerns and to bring a bit of light to the darkness in which some people find themselves. Staff members also share information on mental health services should callers choose to explore these options.
According to 211 officials, Williams’ suicide has been a wake-up call to further the discussion of mental health and depression, and the need to create a climate in society where mental health becomes just as important as physical health. “Depression can be treated and suicide is preventable,” 211 Executive Director Susan Buza said. “And as a community, we all can work together to break the stigma associated with reaching out for help.”
In the meantime, 211 staff members are working tirelessly to ensure that a warm, comforting voice is at the other end of the line, ready to listen and ready to help.
If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, or if you just need to talk, any time of day or night, pick up the phone and dial 2-1-1. You can also visit www.211palmbeach.org to learn more about the many community services available.