Local News

Triangle calls for mental illness help increase after Williams' death

Posted August 13, 2014

— Gloria Harrison understands what it’s like to consider taking one’s life – and not just because she’s a mental health professional.

“I have attempted suicide twice in my life,” said Harrison, who added that several of her family members have also attempted suicide. “Once when I was very young. When I was 10.”

Harrison, the help-line manager for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in North Carolina (NAMI-NC), has seen a significant increase in calls since comedian Robin Williams’ suicide on Monday. Most calls are from concerned family members.

Those who judge Williams for taking his own life, shouldn’t, Harrison said.

“He held on for a long time,” she said. “He was in the highest risk pool for suicide.”

The national suicide rate for men ages 35-64 increased 27 percent between 1999 and 2010, according to a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The greatest increase was among ages 50-59, the report said.

Whites had the second-highest suicide rate increase among racial groups. For white men, the rate increased 59.5 percent, according to the report.

“The results underscore the importance of prevention strategies that address the needs of persons aged 35–64 years, which includes the baby boomer cohort,” the report said. “Prevention efforts are particularly important for this cohort because of its size, history of elevated suicide rates, and movement toward older adulthood, the period of life that has traditionally been associated with the highest suicide rates.”

Williams was 63.

“In no way do I think he was cowardly,” Harrison said. “I think he was a pretty strong person.”

Harrison said her depression never goes away. Suicidal thoughts are always in the back of her mind, which is why Harrison has a deep understanding of those she helps.

“I have a sister with schizophrenia, a daughter with bipolar and my mother also had bipolar and I have clinical depression,” she said.

Harrison is far from alone. Alliance Behavioral Healthcare, an affiliate of NAMI-NC, helped 1.7 million people in Wake, Durham, Johnston and Cumberland counties through its help-line last year.

What has helped Harrison, she said, is helping others like her.

“Mental illness is real,” she said. “It's a neurobiological brain disorder. It's truly an illness.”


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  • WRAL + GOLO = completely Bais Ne Aug 14, 2014

    Almost everyone, knows someone, who is in need of some degree of help. If you care about that or those person/s at all, talk to them. Volunteer to go with them to get help. Most of the time, people suffering from some type of mental illness, only want to not be alone. They are sometimes "embarrassed", though this should never be. Just take their hand. Be there for them. Most importantly, make sure they get help. I agree that the government has withdrawn many of the services that people need. At the very least, take them to the local ER. At least try.

  • ohmygosh Aug 14, 2014

    The catch phrase is "get help".
    What, When, Where and How? These are the vexing problems facing treatment of mental illness. What is problematic since treatment is at best talk therapy pseudo science and throwing darts with various medications. When is a big issue. To have to wait months or longer for an appointment isn't support. Where is an issue., Services are essentially non-existent except in big cities. How to get plugged into the system and actually get help you can afford. Even if you're lucky and "get help" when it doesn't work you are still told to "get help". Absurd.

  • Jerry Sawyer Aug 14, 2014
    user avatar

    How about fully staffing Dorothea Dix Hospital again. We have a real need for mental health services, but our leadership in Raleigh thinks it is a swell idea to turn Dorothea Dix into a park. Wonderful idea! What on earth are we thinking.

  • Barbara Horton Aug 14, 2014
    user avatar

    Its great people are reaching out but the mental health system keeps being cut and the assistance isn't there. Access is poor, unaffordable, or there are long waits, as beds as services continue to be cut. I work in the schools and even with the kids, we spend almost the whole school year trying to get them into services because the waits are so long, and school-based mental health services were cut for our youth as well.

  • Kenny Dunn Aug 14, 2014
    user avatar

    There is a silver lining in the terrible incident. More people seeking help is a good thing. Now, if there were the resources to provide the help it would be even better.

  • sinenomine Aug 14, 2014

    It's true that there is a media fixation on suicide when one ends the life of a prominent person. This too will pass. There will, however, be a residual effect will which outlast the immediate shock and which may ultimately benefit other depressed persons. I certainly hope this is true, at least. If the conversation helps just one person I think it's worth it.

  • Forthe Newssite Aug 14, 2014
    user avatar

    IF all this talk after a 'famous persons' suicide helps to save but ONE life than it's been worth 'the talk'. It's sad that the attention is not there all the time....and we truly DO need to do more to help those people ALL THE TIME, not just after a high profile suicide.

  • ohbumr Aug 14, 2014

    View quoted thread

    there is only a push for this since someone famous is involved. when tracy morgan was injured in that crash, everyone was screaming, "we have to do something about the drivers of 18 wheelers !! they don't get enough rest!!!". when paul walker died, it was "we have to do something about street racing awareness!!!". then eventually people forget about it and nobody cares about it anymore.

  • cindydufr Aug 13, 2014

    I really don't understand all the talk about helping the mental illness! I know the illness I have and how to care for it but our society has made it so hard to do why not give up. I personally have lost my health insurance, have a Rex card saying up to 75% off ha ha. My meds are 326 with card drops to 240. I am homeless, waiting for Medicare (which doesn't cover the needed meds) and been to holly hill twice when going off my meds. Wish all the talk about helping was more then just talk! We'll thanks for listening cindy