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Robin Williams' death: An opportunity to prevent more suicides

Items are left in memory of Robin Williams on his star along Hollywood Boulevard.
Items are left in memory of Robin Williams on his star along Hollywood Boulevard.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

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Something positive may come out of the tragedy of Robin Williams' apparent suicide: Suicide prevention hotlines are seeing a spike in calls from people seeking help.

The 160 local hotlines that make up the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline saw their collective call volume more than double in the 24 hours after Williams' death, according to Lifeline officials.

In Los Angeles, the folks manning the phones at the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center — the nation’s oldest and largest — are reporting a similar phenomenon. There has been a 95 percent spike in calls since Williams' death, from about 160 a day to more than 300 a day, says Center Director Robert Stohr. 

The comedians' death seems to have had a particularly strong impact among Latinos experiencing mental health crises, if calls to the Center's Spanish language line are any measure. Before Williams' death, there were a couple of calls a day, and since then there have been more than 50 a day, Stohr says.

Whenever a high profile figure takes his or her own life and there is tremendous media coverage, experts worry about "suicide contagion," particularly among adolescents

So the services provided by suicide prevention hotlines are even more critical at a time like this. Here are links to services in southern California:

Suicide prevention hotlines in L.A. County

Orange County Crisis Prevention Hotline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline