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Robin Williams’ suicide puts focus on mental health

Robin Williams’ suicide has sharpened the focus on mental health and substance abuse issues, and the need to better respond to those who require help. 

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People Leave Tributes To Robin Williams Outside Mork & Mindy House
Marc Piscotty, Getty Images

“For many people with mental illnesses there is no access to treatment. In fact, 60 percent do not receive care,” said Debra Wentz, CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.

For those that do receive care, it can be a lengthy process since  time is required to find which treatment course is most effective for that individual. Wentz said that can include a combination of medication, counseling, housing and other support services.  The treatment plan can also change over time.

“Get everybody into treatment who needs it,” Wentz said. “Unfortunately you can save a life or lose a life in a split second.”

Stigma and discrimination can both act as barriers for those in need of help, according to Wentz.

For those that do get treatment, most experience a high rate of recovery, according to Wentz. In fact, more than 80 percent of those treated for depression recover and more than 90 percent treated for anxiety recover.

In the case of Robin Williams, Wentz said there’s a deep sense of loss after someone takes their own life. “The feelings over the loss of a life to suicide are the same, whether the person is a celebrity or someone we know personally.”

She said the lingering questions that people have are mostly the same – Did this have to happen? Why did it happen? Could it have been prevented?

In New Jersey, over 250,000 adults and about 93,000 children live with serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nationally, one life is lost to suicide every 15.8 minutes and suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death.

The New Jersey Hopeline, a suicide prevention hotline, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number is 855-654-6735.





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