When Sabrina Tengelsen Guthrie learned Robin Williams killed himself, she was devastated.
The Bucktown resident had lived for years in California’s Marin County, where Williams was “a permanent fixture.”
But for Guthrie, executive director of the Tengelsen Family Foundation, it was more than just the shock of losing a popular actor and onetime neighbor. Williams’ death brought back the painful reminder that sometimes talent, success and a loving family are not enough.
The news may have been about Williams, but Tengelsen’s thoughts turned to her brother, Dana.
Dana had long struggled with depression, something obvious to his family but not always to others. He had a high-powered business career, one others might look at and think, wow, what a success. The persona he showed the world was outgoing, relaxed.
But his family always knew that when Dana wouldn’t return calls or emails, it meant he wasn’t in a good place. He turned to therapy and medication, and his family tried mightily to give him the support he needed.
“We always hoped at some point something would make a difference,” she says, that “somehow he’d find a way to enjoy his life and talents and not be living in this inner torment.”
Sadly, that did not happen. Dana killed himself at age 50 on Jan. 16, 2013.
When something so heartbreaking happens, the family “goes into autopilot” to get through, Guthrie says, but soon after they realized that to make some sort of sense of Dana’s death, they need to do something that could help others.