WATCH: Dr. Jeffrey Lieberan, Chairman of Psychiatry at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, discusses the factors that could have contributed to Robin Williams’ apparent suicide.
TORONTO – Actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead Monday morning at his home in Tiburon, California.
While an investigation into the cause of death is underway, police believe it was suicide by asphyxia.
As Williams entertained the world on stage and screen for more than four decades, he battled addictions in his personal life.
In the late 1970s and early ’80s he was using cocaine but said he gave it up after the death of his friend John Belushi.
He went to rehab in Oregon in 2006 to deal with an alcohol problem.
This past July, Williams sought further treatment for his alcohol problem at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota.
His rep, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement about the star’s death that he had been suffering from severe depression lately.
News of Williams’ death quickly lit up social media sites, such as Twitter.
At first people brushed it off as a hoax. Then, after it was verified, messages from celebrities, friends and fans mourning the star rose to the top.
But once it sunk in that Williams — considered by many to be a comic genius — possibly killed himself, a serious message took over.
Soon, the hashtag #SuicidePrevention began trending and an open dialogue on mental illness came out of Williams’ death.
Mental health advocates say that the lack of public discussion about causes and prevention is leaving those at risk for suicide in the dark.
Tim Wall, executive director of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, told The Canadian Press in a 2011 article that talking about suicide with someone directly lowers the risk of suicide.
“It’s only by talking about it in an informed way that we can prevent suicides. We need to have those conversations,” Wall said.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, suicide accounts for 16 per cent of deaths in Canada for those between the ages of 16 and 44.
“People need to understand that it can happen to anybody, any time. Nobody’s immune to it and we need to talk about it if we’re going to do something about it,” Scott Chisholm, founder of the Collateral Damage Project told The Canadian Press in the same 2011 article.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, visit suicideprevention.ca for a list of resources.
In case of an emergency, please call 911.
-With files from John Kennedy and The Canadian Press