ST. TAMMANY- Thousands are mourning the loss of one of America's favorite actors, Robin Williams. But with the sharing of memories has been the sharing of messages of suicide prevention.
It's the same message Virginia Blanke-Briant has been spreading in St. Tammany since her son's suicide 23 years ago. She, along with St. Tammany Outreach for the Prevention of Suicide, or STOPS, has been responding to suicide scenes like this one a few years ago, as well as working on recovery with people who have attempted suicide, and teaching signs of suicide.
She says that could include something obvious like talking about thoughts of suicide, or something that isn't, like giving away large amounts of property.
'Because most of us remember when we had our losses, the police come, the coroner's office comes, and they're very nice, but they leave and that's it,' said Blanke-Briant, 'So that's really helped a lot.'
In recent years, St. Tammany has had one of the state's highest suicide rates. Last year's 32 reports improved over 2012's 36. This year, 21 people have committed suicide.
Parish leaders say Williams' death highlights the fact that suicide can affect us all. St. Tammany Coroner Charles Preston said, 'It does go across socio-economic barriers, educational barriers, race barriers, everybody is at risk and that's why it's important to be aware.' And with the issue now attached to one of the most beloved celebrities, many are hopeful the message that help is out there will grow. If you, or someone you know, may be considering suicide, 1-800-273-TALK can help, as well as dialing 2-1-1. STOPS will be holding a prevention awareness walk on September 20 at the Abita Trailhead. For more information, visit www.stops-la.com