Robin Williams

Robin Williams’ wonderfully expressive face. We’ll miss it terribly. Let’s remember him like this.

Lieutenant Keith Boyd of the Marin County Sheriff’s department held a press conference this morning to release preliminary findings from the coroner’s investigation into the death of Robin Williams. Williams’ wife last saw him alive at approximately 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 10, when she went to bed. She left the home at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, August 11, believing that Williams was still asleep. At approximately 11:45 a.m., William’s personal assistant became concerned because Williams had not woken and did not respond to knocking on his bedroom door or verbal calls. The personal assistant gained access to Williams’ bedroom and found Williams dead. He called 9-1-1, and reported that Williams had hanged himself, had died, and that rigor mortis had set in. Sheriff’s deputies and County Fire arrived within minutes and Williams was pronounced dead at 12:02 p.m.

The preliminary findings of the coroner confirm that Williams died from asphyxia due to hanging, and state that the exam did not reveal any injuries that indicated any kind of struggle or altercation with another person that may have led to Williams’ death. The preliminary findings also include the fact that lividity (the pooling of blood within the body) was consistent with the position in which Williams’s body was found, indicating that it had not been moved or tampered with. Toxicology results will not be available for two to six weeks, and the final investigation results will be available sometime after that.

Earlier this morning, fans gathered on Hollywood Boulevard at William’s star on the Walk of Fame, to mourn his loss. An official said, “We feel this loss so deeply because there will never be another Robin Williams. He was truly one of a kind.”

Robin Williams’ official Facebook page posted this message to fans, “We are grateful for the heartfelt outpouring of support for our beloved Robin Williams from friends and fans all over the world. Your kind words are a great comfort in this time of deep sorrow. We love you, Robin. Rest in Peace. –Team RW”

Treating depression and preventing suicide takes a community effort. Whether you suffer from depression or not, it’s important to be observant of the people around you. Some of the warning signs of a suicidal person are obvious: calling people to say goodbye, talking about dying or how “it would be better if I weren’t here,” or extreme risk-taking, for example. But there are smaller, more subtle signs that may indicate that someone is heading in a bad direction, and an observant friend or family member can help to turn the situation around.

Some of these signs are:

  • loss of interest in things one used to care about
  • Sudden changes in weight
  • A sudden effort to contact people one hasn’t spoken to in some time (these may be goodbyes, even if “goodbye” is not part of the conversation)
  • Worsening problems with sleeping or eating
  • Packing away, purging, or giving away possessions
  • Unusual levels of impulsivity, irritation, agitation, or aggression
  • Expressing a sense of failure or being a burden upon others
  • Withdrawal or isolation from social contact and family

What can you do to help?

Ask questions. It’s uncomfortable and no one wants to invade someone else’s private thought-space, but if you suspect someone you care for is considering suicide, the time to mind your own business is over. Ask them point blank whether they’re considering suicide. Tell them their words and behavior make you concerned about the possibility that they may be thinking about suicide.

You can’t argue someone out of suicide. What you can do is remind them that they do have reasons to live, and that killing themselves will hurt their friends and family deeply. Ask whether they are receiving treatment, and if so, whether they’ve been keeping their appointments and taking their prescribed meds. If not, encourage them to seek treatment immediately. If the person will allow it, assist them in making the appointment and accompany them to it. Follow up. If the situation seems immediately dangerous, take the person to any emergency room or to a walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital.

If you cannot convince the person to cooperate with getting help, you may need to take action they do not want. Ignore the discomfort of going against their desires (easier said than done, but absolutely critical). You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for advice, contact your county mental health department, or, if the situation warrants, call 9-1-1. Getting help for an uncooperative person can be difficult, and you may need to be persistent. If you are genuinely concerned about the safety of a friend or loved one, call and keep calling until you get help. Don’t give up; the stakes are far too high to be deterred by an overloaded mental health system, which can be slow to respond.

We’re deeply saddened by the loss of Robin Williams. If anything good can come from such a loss, we hope that it would be heightened awareness that may help prevent another family from enduring such a tragedy. Take care of each other and watch over those you cherish. Rest in peace, Mister Williams; we hope you’ve found your freedom now.

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