Robin Williams Death Spikes New Jersey Suicide Hotline calls

Source: Asbury Park Press
The death of comedian and actor Robin Williams has intersected with efforts in New Jersey to erase the stigma attached to clinical depression and mental illness that, coupled with substance or alcohol abuse, put people at an increased risk of suicide.
Williams, a well-known celebrity who had acknowledged his years-long fight with depression…had been seeking treatment…and had dealt with periodic bouts of substance abuse, announcing last month he was returning to a 12-step treatment program.
(His death) will prompt conversations about what can be done about national suicide rates that have risen sharply in the past decade, said Bob Davison…the executive director of the Mental Health Association of Essex County and a member of the Codey Fund for Mental Health, founded by former NJ Governor and Mrs. Richard and Mary Jo Codey.

The average number of daily calls to NJ Hopeline (1-855-654-6735) is 63, but the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams has pushed the number closer to 100 daily.

Moustafa Shafey, a psychiatrist and medical director of CentraState Medical Center’s Mental Health Department in Freehold, said the death of Williams underscores the connection between depression and addiction. (He) said (they) are both “diseases of the brain that…also alter personal perspective and judgment.” (T)he condition can interfere with work, parenting, schooling and “just about every aspect of one’s life.”
Ellen Lovejoy, spokeswoman for the state Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said $400 million will be spent on mental health services in New Jersey through 150 community care contracts in the current fiscal year…The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services has more than 4,000 patients who require, for some period of time, intensive inpatient treatment in state psychiatric hospitals, with another 273,000 clients using services in their own communities, Lovejoy said. Approximately 7,000 people require inpatient treatment from six county-operated psychiatric units or hospitals.

Changes in sleep, changes in appetite, poor concentration, loss of energy, lack of interest, low self-esteem, hopelessness and guilt are all signals of depression.

New Jersey’s adult suicide rate is lower than most other states, but there are close to 700 suicides per year…according to state and federal statistics. “Robin Williams made people laugh. He made people relax. Ironically, people who may need help will get it because of Robin Williams,” Shafey said.

Where to get help

• New Jersey has a suicide hot line, NJHOPELINE (855-654-6735), that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those needing help can also use the website,, which contains resources for those in crisis.

• For help receiving substance-abuse treatment, the New Jersey Addictions Hotline can be reached by dialing 211 or 800-238-2333. This number provides clinically trained and supervised telephone specialists who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to educate, assist, and refer individuals and families who may be battling addictions.

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