“It’s a common co-occurring condition that people will be drawn to using substances and the thinking is this largely self-medication — changing the way we feel," said Duckworth. “If you were depressed, [drinking] might help in the moment, but obviously does not help your course over time."
On Tuesday, the coroner's office in Marin County, California, where Williams lived, said that a preliminary investigation indicated the 63-year-old died as a result of asphyxia due to hanging.
An estimated 30,000 people commit suicide each year in the United States, according to NIMH. And over 90 percent of people who have committed suicide have been diagnosed with mental illness, according to NAMI.
"Not all of those [people] had depression, but depression is certainly one of the more common [diagnoses], if not the most common one,” said Dr. Nadine Kaslow, current president of the American Psychological Association and chief psychologist at the Emory University School of Medicine. “So it’s a serious risk factor.”
While women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are approximately four times more likely to die by suicide, according to NAMI.
Williams’ apparent suicide has also raised questions of why someone who has enjoyed such fame, career success and financial well-being would be so overcome so as to resort to suicide. But it’s not so simple, medical experts said.
“One of things that I’ve observed is when people get depressed, their thinking patterns can get restricted, negative [and] limited,” Duckworth said, adding “tremendous psychological pain” may overpower any rational thinking.
More than anything, experts say that identification of depression and other mental health problems is key and that while primary care doctors have the responsibility of screening and following up on patients and their symptoms, the responsibility goes beyond physicians.
"There’s lots of people in our lives who we may have a lot more contact with," said Kaslow, referring to individuals such as family members, teachers, employers and clergy. "Most of us see our primary care doctor once a year if we’re responsible. They don’t know us that well necessarily, and there’s a lot of other people that need to step in and ask and help us get help.”
“We do know that [depression is] common, we do know that it’s usually treatable and we do know that if you stay with the treatment, you likely get better outcomes,” said Duckworth.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.