St. Tammany Parish — where the suicide rate is among the highest in the state — has seen a spike in suicides and attempted suicides since the Aug. 11 death of acclaimed actor and comedian Robin Williams, according to Coroner Charles Preston.
Before Williams’ death, 21 people had committed suicide in 2014 in St. Tammany Parish, Preston said. But in the 18 days after Williams’ death, there had been five more, Preston said. There have also been at least five attempted suicides.
Preston cautioned that a direct cause-and-effect relationship between Williams’ death and increased suicides is impossible to prove, but he added that national news often impacts local trends. So can anniversaries of sad occasions, he said, which is one reason he and Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith were moved to issue a news release Friday.
“Today is the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in Slidell and that could trigger post-traumatic stress in thousands of people,” Smith said, urging any residents who are having suicidal thoughts to reach out for help.
The suicide prevention hotline is (800) 273-TALK (8255). The National Alliance for Mental Illness of St. Tammany can be reached at (985) 626-6538 and for those uninsured or underinsured St. Tammany’s community health centers can be reached at (985) 607-0400 in Slidell or (985) 400-5340 in Covington.
Additionally, people who are worried about family or friends can call the coroner’s office at (985) 781-1150 during regular business hours. Outside of those hours, the Slidell Police Department can be reached at (985) 643-3131 and the sheriff’s office can be reached at (985) 809-8200.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter @faimon.