Robin Williams: How to Recognize Suicide Signs, Where to Get Help

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Robin Williams stars in the 1998 film “What Dreams May Come.” (Credit: Polygram Films)

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Friends of comedian Robin Williams, who died Monday at age 63 in an apparent suicide, urged the public Monday to seek help if they have suicidal thoughts and encouraged friends to stay alert to any warning signs of depression.

"Robin was as sweet a man as he was funny," comedian Jimmy Kimmel said on Twitter. "If you're sad, please tell someone."

The "romantic notion" that suicide is caused by one disastrous change in someone's life is almost never the case, said Roderick Shaner, medical director for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. More than 90% of people who commit suicide have previously struggled with substance abuse, psychotic disorders or depression, and the majority of those who seek help are treated successfully.

"A bad turn of events that occurs is more likely to be a trigger of suicide, rather than the cause of it," Shaner said.

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