August 12, 2014 4:13 pm

Robin Williams’ death opens discussion about mental health and suicide

HALIFAX – From comedies to an Academy Award-winning drama, Robin Williams entertained an entire generation of movie-goers.

For Lyne Brun, he meant much more than that.

Williams, who died Monday from an apparent suicide, had spoken publicly about his depression before and it was something Brun could relate to.

“I went through a significant period of depression myself a few years back and for some reason, his over-the-top antics were incredibly uplifting for me,” she said.

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“It just cheered me up and I thought he was just such an incredible person.”

The Halifax-based mental health advocate says news of the actor’s death hit her hard, especially since Williams was known for his comedic persona.

Those who work in the mental health field say it serves as a reminder about the far-reaching impact of depression.

“It just goes to show how mental illness truly does affect anyone,” said Colleen Fraser, Communications Co-ordinator with the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. “And that’s the tragedy of the situation.”

The foundation hopes the discussion about the actor’s death will spark more conversation about suicide, as well as remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

“The more we talk about it, we’re actually saving lives,” Fraser said. “There’s help out there for people who need it and that’s what we want to communicate on a story like this.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by those who work in suicide prevention.

Communities Address Suicide Together (CAST) provides education and training to address suicides in Nova Scotia. Mike Price, the group’s director, says it’s important for people to find the support they need, whether it’s from professionals, friends or family.

“That’s our best message: that people know that they’re not alone — that there are supports available in Nova Scotia and across the country for people that are suffering from mental health issues or having thoughts of suicide,” he said.

“That they do reach out…that people don’t suffer in silence.”

Reaching out if you need help

The Nova Scotia government’s website provides a list of mental health resources with contact information for people in need of help for mental health-related issues.

The toll-free mental health crisis line, which provides support and mobile response, can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week by dialing 1-888-429-8167 (toll-free).

Kids Help Phone, a free, anonymous and confidential phone and on-line professional counselling service for youth, can also be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-668-6868.

WATCH: Halifax residents react to the passing of Robin Williams.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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