Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams died yesterday at the age of 63, stunning fans and the entertainment industry, and also bringing to light a common condition that many people don’t fully understand—depression.
Williams’ publicist said in a statement that the actor “had been battling severe depression of late.” In July, the Dead Poets Society and Mrs. Doubtfire star voluntarily checked into rehab to “focus on continued commitment to sobriety;” he had struggled with substance abuse for much of his adult life.
This afternoon, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that his death was a suicide and revealed that Williams died due to asphyxia from hanging, People reports. Authorities also noted the actor was undergoing treatment for depression.
Nearly 1 in 10 American adults suffer from depression—a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, guilt, or hopelessness interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. Only 68% of people who experienced a depressive episode in the past year sought professional treatment, according to a 2012 survey. Without treatment, clinical depression can lead to risky behaviors like drug or alcohol abuse, self-harm, and suicide. The World Health Organization estimates there are 1 million suicide deaths per year.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are there to listen and to help.
Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider released a statement saying: “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief.”
She also professed this wish: “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
Learn more about Robin Williams in this video from Time.com:
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