Survivors hope Robin Williams' death triggers depression dialogue

SACRAMENTO - Aug. 13 would have been Deanna Thomas' 44th birthday, but on Feb. 22, 2000, she took her own life.

"She was at home with me," her father Charles Thomas said. "She died by hanging in the garage. I cut her down and called 911. When they told me it was too late, I ran out of the house. I remember it was raining. I walked back and forth, up and down the block."

This is the first time Thomas has told his story on such a public stage. Deanna, or DeDe as he called her, killed herself when she was 29, leaving her 7-year-old son behind.

"I miss the way she would greet me," Thomas said with a smile on his face, but pain in his eyes. "She always said, 'Daddy, I love you.'"

With the spotlight on the apparent suicide of Robin Williams who was reportedly battling severe depression, Thomas hopes his death breaks stigmas, and people realize depression is a disease.

"You wouldn't criticize someone if they came and told you they'd been diagnosed with leukemia," he said.

After his daughter's death, Thomas also battled depression, refusing to leave the house for at least a month.

"My rationale mind said, 'This isn't good for you.' The other side said, 'but it feels good.'"

That is what Dr. Raheel Khanwith Sutter Center for Psychiatry says is a tell-tale sign of depression: not wanting to do anything. Disrupted sleep, changes in appetite, weight loss, a lack of energy are other symptoms.

"Our society is very productive, but that productivity leads to us thinking, 'Well, get over it.' It's easy to do if you're a little sad. It's hard to do if you're clinically depressed," Khan said.

He added, "Depression strikes anybody, anywhere. It doesn't play favorites, it doesn't say, 'Well, you're not rich so I'll get you instead of the rich and famous.' It hits everybody."

If you're struggling with depression, have thoughts of suicide or someone you know is going through this, one resource for help is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number is 1-800-273-TALK.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States; more than murder. Men, ages 45-64, account for most suicides.


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