The tragic death of legendary actor Robin Williams is now shining a spotlight on depression and suicide.
Williams was a king of comedy and beloved around the world for making us laugh, but his long career was haunted by addiction. The 63-year-old actor was open about his drug and alcohol problems.
"It's not uncommon for comedians and for people working for a living to wear a mask, if you will, and make others laugh, and they have their own dark side and demons, as well," said Marty Ferrero, the senior clinical director at the Caron Foundation, a drug and alcohol treatment center in South Heidelberg Township, Berks County.
Ferrero said depression and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand.
He said depression is a temporary state of mind, but it's hard to break free of. The warning signs include mood swings, irritability, sleep disruption, difficulty concentrating and you stop enjoying something.
"For people who struggle with major depression, probably one out of every 10 end up attempting suicide," said Ferrero.
Berks County has seen and felt the impact of suicide. Now, a local group, Berks Active Awareness, is bringing it to the forefront this weekend to raise awareness.
"We're hoping people can see what a problem it really is no matter your age, financial status or your fame level," said Taryn Shillady, who is helping organize the event.
Shillady said everyone in the group has had a friend or loved one take their own life. On Sat., Aug. 16, they're throwing Summer LifeFest 2014 for suicide awareness. It will feature food, music and fun at Saint John's Grove in Wernersville starting at noon. Donations are encouraged and all the proceeds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
"We need people to know that there are places you can go to if you ever have feelings like that," said Shillady.
In Berks County, Service Access and Management Inc. provides crisis intervention for anyone experiencing depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. The toll free number is 877-236-4600.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.
Officials hope Williams' death now shines a light on the power of psychiatric illnesses and what can happen to someone struggling.