August 13, 2014 8:13 am

Robin Williams’ death brings mental illness to light: Sask. senator

Watch above: Robin Williams’ death casts spotlight on mental health stigma

SASKATOON – The globe continues to mourn his passing, Oscar-winning actor and comedian, Robin Williams. His death by suicide brings to light the issues of mental health.

The news of his passing lit up social media, trending all over Twitter and filling up news feeds on Facebook. Robin Williams was a man who entertained millions but in the end took his own life.

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FULL COVERAGE: Robin Williams 1951-2014

In the midst, one Saskatchewan senator continues to lobby for a national prevention strategy.

“Even funny, happy people can suffer with depression and anxiety and it doesn’t mean it’s a personality trait, it’s a mental illness, it’s an illness,” said Sen. Denise Batters.

Batters understands what Williams and his family have been going through. Her husband David Batters, a former Saskatchewan Member of Parliament, committed suicide following a battle with depression in 2009.

“It’s unfortunate when it takes a tragedy for people to talk about the issues of depression and suicide but I hope that a tragedy like this can make people realize that these are issues that are too often stigmatized we need to bring them into the light,” said Batters.

Since her husbands death, Denise has become an advocate for mental health, lobbying for a national suicide prevention strategy.

“There is hope, please reach out, there is help for you, you are not alone and that’s a very important message for people to realize because I think to often those suffering with mental illness think that they are the only ones that are suffering with this,” said Batters.

Suicide accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths for 15- to 24-year-olds in Canada and 16 per cent of those between the ages of 25 and 44.

“We’re just not tackling it well enough, there’s no question about it,” said Angela Bowen.

This hits close to home for Bowen, an associate psychiatry professor at the University of Saskatchewan; her son committed suicide almost 20 years ago.

“It’s affected so many families and it doesn’t just affect that person, it affects many people in their circle for a long time so if anything good could come from this horrible thing, it’s that people do talk about it and that more people are aware of it,” said Bowen.

There is a 24 hour help line in Saskatchewan for people with mental illness, 8-1-1. While Robin Williams death quickly took social media by storm, so too did #SuicidePrevention.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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