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      Death of Robin Williams brings awareness to mental health issues

      Mental health professionals say the death of Robin Williams is a stark reminder that substance abuse depression are serious issues that require attention.

      In the wake of the suicide of comedian Robin Williams, local mental health professionals say now is a good time to remember that depression and substance abuse are serious issues facing many people from all walks of life.

      Substance Abuse Counselor Cynthia Hawk said she has seen an increase in people seeking services for drug abuse in mid-Missouri. ??It??s on the rise,?? Hawk said. ??We??re seeing more people suffering from the long term effects of illegal drug use.??

      ??A lot of people don??t know how to go about getting help or even know what??s wrong with them,?? Hawk said. ??So, they try to continue as best as they can and try to survive.??

      Hawk said depression and substance abuse go hand in hand and that many times, using drugs is a symptom of depression.

      ??If they self-medicate, they are basically just covering up what is going on with them,?? Hawk said. ??They are not really dealing with the problem at hand.??

      Hawk and her fellow therapist Vinita Khanna of Preferred Family Healthcare say that is why their organization has an open-door policy. People can reach out to them for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

      ??There is not next-minute, not next-hour,?? Khanna said. ??If you are here, I??m here. That??s the way we operate here.??

      Khanna said seeking help for a substance use disorder, depression, or a dual diagnosis can be difficult. She said finding the right therapist may not happen on the first try, but that it is important not to give up.

      Scott Perkins of the Missouri Department of Mental Health said if you or someone you know is depressed, using drugs, or suicidal, it is important to step in and try to help.

      ??Just be there and listen and don??t judge them,?? Perkins said. ??Be there and go and get help with them, take them to see a counselor. You don??t want to do it when you only have a few minutes and you have to rush out and do something else.??

      Khanna said it is important to seek help even if the willpower doesn??t seem to be there. ??We are talking about life here,?? Khanna said. ??There is no way we can sit and wait when we talk about depression.??