San Diego suicide hotline calls up since Williams' death - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego suicide hotline calls up since Williams' death

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – Actor and comedian Robin Williams' death could be preventing others. Calls to a local suicide prevention hotline are way up this week.

Several days after Williams' death, the discussion surrounding suicide seems to be growing and growing.

Ruth Kenzelmann is the executive director for Optum Health, the organization that operates San Diego's access and crisis line. She says since news of Robin Williams hit, their calls are up 18 percent overall, and up 27 percent when it comes to crisis calls.

"Unfortunately, events like this does trigger things in people. So one, they may be triggered in the sense of their own internal… that they are having thoughts of suicide, or they've lost a person in the past to suicide. Or they're worried about something else," Kenzelmann said.

It's hard to say what pushed Williams to take his own life, but on Thursday his wife said he was dealing with the early stages of Parkinson's disease. We asked Kenzelmann how a diagnosis like that can affect someone who already has depression.

"Suicide is such a complex issue. It can't be subscribed that one thing pushed someone over the edge. Again, it's usually a myriad of things that lead people to have suicidal thoughts," she explained.

To help reach out to San Diegans, Optum is now offering a crisis chat line, and you'd be surprised to learn who's using it the most.

"The response has been wonderful in the sense that these are folks that are a little more hesitant to call a phone line, and interestingly enough middle-aged men are the most at-risk for suicide, and that's who's accessing the chat line right now," Kenzelmann said.

It's just another way to reach San Diegans and let them know there's always someone there.

"Suicide is preventable. Discussions of depression, discussion of things that can complicate and lead to suicidal thoughts, it's OK to talk about, it's OK to reach out," she said.

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