Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors's picture
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Nonprofit Supporting Military Families Grieving Deaths by Suicide Reflects on Media Coverage, Offers Prevention Information


ARLINGTON, Va. – The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) issues the following statement on the death by suicide of actor Robin Williams:

We are deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who was a renowned and beloved entertainer who cared about our troops and their families. 

We provide comfort and care every day to military families grieving a death by suicide. We know the terrible tragedy of suicide and the horrific pain it leaves in the hearts of families.

On average, 2-3 new people contact TAPS each day requesting help in coping with the death by suicide of a service member or recent veteran. More than 4,000 people grieving the death of a service member or recent veteran by suicide receive care and support from TAPS.

The death of Robin Williams reminds us that suicide is a public health issue. A death by suicide is the result of an illness, not a personal failing or character flaw. The majority of deaths by suicide are linked to mental illness. The person who dies by suicide has lost hope and is usually within a “perfect storm” of risk factors. Many are also struggling with addiction or an injury, such as post-traumatic stress, along with depression. No one factor can be pinpointed typically as the root cause of suicide. 

Help and treatment are available for those who are struggling with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. It is not hopeless. Treatment can work and is available. Veterans and service members who are struggling can call the confidential crisis line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to http://veteranscrisisline.net/ 

We deeply appreciate the efforts made by the news media to talk about depression and mental health in the wake of the untimely and tragic death of Robin Williams. We have seen so many use the airwaves and the internet to distribute prevention information and offer hope. 

We have seen many words of compassion, not judgment, in these last few days. And we have heard many touching tributes to the life of Mr. Williams. This was heartwarming to see, as so often, when someone dies by suicide, their manner of death eclipses their life and almost erases it. 

We see these movements as signs that we are making headway in changing how society talks about mental health and suicide. While they may seem like small and incremental changes, we think that the news coverage about deaths by suicide in the Armed Forces and among veterans over the last several years, has contributed to our ability to have a more open and less stigmatized discussion about suicide and mental health. While we still see much that could be improved, we do see incremental improvements in dialogue, discussion and community support.

We encourage the news media to use safe messaging when reporting about suicide and to consider carefully the details that are being published. Messaging that explicitly describes the method used, presents suicide as the only solution for mental anguish, and glorifies a death in this manner can be harmful and contribute to copycat deaths. 

Reporters may want to consult the recommendations for reporting on suicide, which are based on research about media coverage and suicide contagion.  Additional resources for journalists about safe messaging are also available from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and the Poynter Institute

MEDIA CONTACT: Ami Neiberger-Miller, 202.588.8277, ami@taps.org

About TAPS: TAPS is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military and has offered support to more than 50,000 surviving family members of our fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars   and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to www.taps.org or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277). 

Copy this html code to your website/blog to embed this press release.


Post new comment

2 + 15 =

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Page execution time was 702.21 ms.

Memory usage:

Memory used at: devel_init()=2.13 MB, devel_shutdown()=22.56 MB.