Local Reaction to the Sudden Death of Actor Robin Williams

Created: 08/12/2014 6:54 PM
By: Hannah Tran

(ABC 6 News ) -- Robin Williams was an iconic figure of light-hearted humor and acting versatility. He was filled with so much life that it makes it difficult for the world to understand why he took his own.

"It's something that I think was very surprising," said Courtney Lawson, Executive Director of local resource group National Alliances for Mental Illness.

Mr. Williams’ media representatives say he was suffering from severe depression, another reminder that mental illness can strike the lively, the energetic, the seemingly happiest of folks.

"It's far more common than a lot of people think; one in four adults are affected," says Lawson.

Dr. Mark Frye, Chair of Mayo Clinic's Depression Center, says depression can be the most complicated and painful illnesses out there.

"We still make a diagnosis of major depression by asking for or looking for a set of symptoms and signs that a patient might endorse," said Dr. Frye.

He also says that each year there's about 38,000 completed suicides, nationwide.

"What we know about the majority of those that have completed suicides is that a mental illness was present at the time of this tragic event.”

Once called the "funniest man alive," Robin Williams is often seen switching from character to character. The Oscar-winning actor's struggles may never be fully understood because of his sudden death.

"I think mental illness is definitely an illness where people often suffer alone," said Lawson.

Despite the shock, local resource groups remind others about the importance of reaching out.

Next Monday night, a public forum with the latest research on mental health will take place at Rochester’s Marriott Hotel. It will be hosted by Mayo Clinic’s Psychiatry and Psychology Department. The public is invited to attend.

Photo: MGN