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North Texas Suicide Calls Up After Robin Williams' Death

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - The much publicized suicide of actor/comedian Robin Williams, experts say, may help save others struggling with depression. Local suicide hotlines are already seeing an increase in calls.

"Oh, yes, absolutely!" Jenyce Gush, with the Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas, said of the call volume. "People are wondering 'how could someone who has everything kill themselves?' I think what people forget is that Robin Williams was human also—and he hurt and he felt like the rest of us."

According to Gush, calls to the center near downtown Dallas have increased roughly 20-percent since news of Williams' death spread. She is encouraging anyone struggling with depression or considering suicide to pick up the phone and accept the help that is so readily available.

"People can call and talk to someone who is not judgmental, who will listen to what they have to say and offer some alternative other than taking their own life. There's a lot of help out there… and there's always hope."

As a survivor— her younger brother committed suicide in 1987—Gush says she turned to the center for support and more than two decades later is supporting others. She now manages the crisis center hotline and programs for survivors.

"I remember years ago my facilitator said, 'one day, you'll look on the negative of this and find something positive.' And I thought, 'that is not going to happen!' And yet, it was true."

Rebecca Chason says her volunteer work at the crisis center helped her maintain perspective as she struggled with her mother's illness.

"You can look at someone and think their life is perfect. Or you can think they're all happy," Chason said, adding, "But, really, everybody is battling their own thing. And that was enlightening and humbling and a really good reality check for me."

Gush says the Williams suicide has also led to an increase in callers looking to volunteer with the center. And that's a good thing—but it is not a commitment to be entered into lightly. The center requires a 10-week training session for prospective volunteers that also includes role playing and fielding mock calls. The hotline number, 214-828-1000, is staffed 24 hours a day.

Chason said, "It's an intensive volunteer position. It's not for everybody. But, it is very, very rewarding."

Advocates are encouraging those who need help to pick up the phone and accept the help—and the hope.

Gush wants people to remember, "As hard as life can be, it can be pretty good, too."

©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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