Robin Williams took his own life a year ago today, and suicide prevention specialists are still attempting to make sense of the “Unprecedented” impact his death has had on mental health.
When any high profile suicide happens, mental health workers worry a contagion effect.
In 1962, Marilyn Monroe’s probable suicide was followed by a considerable spike in the national suicide rate.
In July 2014, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was receiving about 3,500 calls a day.
The past time pros worried the same epidemic of copycat suicides was in the weeks following vocalist Kurt Cobain’s passing in 1994.
Executive director Jessica C. Pirro notes Williams’s suicide and encouragement to seek help as a possible cause.
“At the time of the loss , there was such an enormous spike in interest in the whole issue of suicide,” says Robert Gebbia, the CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“We saw less amazing reporting.” There were exceptions, like stories calling Williams’s departure “a cowardly action” or questioning why anyone with money and celebrity could be driven to suicide.
“People were frightened to confess that they made a suicide attempt, or concealed the fact that they lost a loved one to suicide. But I believe all that is changing. The Robin Williams storyline is a part of this change.”