Famously known as an American actor, comedian, film producer, and screenwriter, Robin Williams touched the hearts of generations with his goofy voices, abnormal impersonations and dramatic stage presence. What most people did not know about their favorite comedian is the underlying pain Williams felt before he took his life on August 11th of this year.
Following the death of this comedian icon, The T-Holmes Foundation (THF) prepares for Suicide Awareness Week. Being held from September 7th to September 13th, Suicide Awareness Week is dedicated to spreading awareness on depression and suicide throughout the nation.
“With the unfortunate suicide of Robin Williams, this week national attention is now focused on suicide. I’d like to see the media offer more information on where people can seek help if they are feeling depressed or having thoughts of suicide,” said Kathy Duelley, board member of THF and retired Avon district manager.
The T-Holmes Foundation, non-profit, was founded in March of 2013 by Diane Holmes of West Bethlehem after losing her son Tylor Holmes, former NCC student, to suicide in July of 2012. Since then the foundation has dedicated themselves to spreading suicide awareness and offering help to those affected by suicide.
“It’s so sad that he [Williams] died, but yet it’s bringing suicide awareness and prevention out in the open, along with mental illness. This just shows that it can happen to anybody,” explained Holmes, a medical assistant.
This year the foundation plans to spread awareness by setting battery-lit candles in their home throughout Suicide Awareness Week. Those who know someone who took their own life can place a candle on their porch in remembrance.
“The opportunity is now to get people to really talk and participate and come together and educate themselves, learn about awareness and prevention and most of all learn to have compassion and empathy towards those suffering from mental illness,” Holmes stated.
The foundation also practices random acts of kindness on a daily basis. THF holds believe that if you cause happiness in others, you will feel happiness within yourself.
Holmes recalls one act of buying food for a homeless man;
“It touched me more than it touched him. He looked in the bag and said, ‘my first meal in three days’. All he kept doing was thanking me and thanking me. But I think he touched me more than I touched him.”
The foundation also plans to educate the public on suicide and mental illness by encouraging people to talk about their personal struggles. Plans are also being made for a door to door campaign with letters about the upcoming event.
“Anyone who is willing to step up to the plate and who is strong enough to walk out there and say ‘I am going to support this,’ can participate. I know we’re not cancer, we’re not diabetes. This is suicide. Let’s stand up now and start speaking out,” Holmes exclaimed passionately.
THF offers a comforting environment for those wanting to talk about mental illness. Although they are not professionals, they provide something that a doctor or psychiatrist cannot give, which is personal experience and a heart to heart with those struggling with similar issues. For some, talking with those going through similar life obstacles is more therapeutic than talking to a professional.
“I think it’s difficult to find and get help. It’s hard to know where to go,” stated Kathy Morrow-Voelker, THF board member from Nazareth.
The foundation hopes to turn around the stigma set behind suicide and mental illness.
Robin Williams daughter, Zelda Rae Williams, had to remove herself from social media shortly following her fathers’ death after repeatedly being harassed online. Some stated on her social media about how “selfish” Williams was for taking his own life.
Holmes, however, believes differently about people who take their lives.
“It took a lot of guts to go into that store, buy that gun and bullets, walk out, face your family like nothing was happening, go to that spot and pull the trigger. That, to me, is no coward. Those who sucrose to suicide only want their pain to end. They see no other means for their pain to end than to take their own lives. They are not selfish, they are in pain,” Holmes explained in regards to her sons’ death.
After the death of Robin Williams, it just goes to show that suicide can happen to anyone, even a person whose goal in life was to make people happy.
Holmes states: “You can no longer turn your back or head or put earplugs in. This is a problem that is becoming dangerous.”
World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10th.