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Letter: Missing a generous, funny Williams

Robin Williams in Santa Monica, Calif. on June

Robin Williams in Santa Monica, Calif. on June 15, 2007. Williams died Aug. 11, 2014 at the age of 63. Newsday's obituary for Robin Williams
Credit: AP / Reed Saxon

What a shock to hear of Robin Williams' death ["A genius who touched us all," Editorial, Aug. 13]. He was a great artist, and this is a great loss to the entertainment world.

While touring Italy and visiting Venice in the early 1980s, my wife, son and I had the pleasure of meeting him one night in Piazza San Marco. He walked by our outdoor table, and I invited him to sit with us and have a drink. He obliged us and, when he learned that another guest at the table was from Virginia, he proceeded with an impromptu dialogue imitating the Virginia native the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

This continued for an hour. When Williams left, he mistakenly gave the waiter a 50,000 Lira note for a 8,000 Lira bill and told him to keep the change. When he realized that it was not a 10,000 Lira note, Williams gave my son his autograph written on a paper napkin with the message, "Send 40,000 Lira quick."

A funny individual with a quick wit and a generous heart.

Frank De Mita, Glen Cove

Robin Williams' apparent suicide has shocked the nation. The death of this rich, famous and funny man brings to light the important fact that mental illness, addiction and suicide do not discriminate.

Risk factors for suicide include: mental disorders, in particular, depression or bipolar disorder, alcohol or substance use or dependence, previous suicide attempts, family history of attempted or completed suicide, and a serious medical condition or pain. Suicide risk tends to be highest when someone has several risk factors at the same time.

It's impossible for us to know exactly what Williams was thinking or going through at the time of his death, and many are left asking why. If we continue to educate ourselves and learn from this tragedy, we can hopefully save a life.

If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts, call The MHANC HELPLINE at (516) 505-HELP (4357) or the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-(800)-273-TALK (8255) or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.

Michael J. Chambers, Hempstead

Editor's note: The writer is the executive director of the Mental Health Association of Nassau County.