Robin Williams' Son Zak Says He Struggled with Depression: 'I Found Myself Self-Medicating'
Zak Williams also said that he was "traumatized" after his father's death five years ago
During an online question and answer session with the mental health chat community 18percent last week, Zak opened up about coping with his father’s death and why he’s become a mental health advocate in the years since the comedian died by suicide in August 2014 at the age of 63.
“I decided to become an advocate because I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression personally,” Zak, 36, said. “Found myself self-medicating and generally unhappy, so when it came to speaking about my and my family’s struggles personally it just sort of clicked.”
Zak, who welcomed son Mickey with fiancée Olivia June in May, also said that he spent time teaching in a prison after his father died.
“I was very traumatized after my dad’s death and found that teaching financial literacy in prison helped me heal and cope with the trauma,” he shared. “After that I found that being vulnerable and open about my struggles seemed to actually help others. So I just kind of kept on doing it. I love it, as I find it healing personally.”
Of learning how to cope with anxiety and depression, Zak — who is the CEO and co-founder of the mental health support company PYM Health — said the “first fix” for him was learning not to “self-medicate.”
“I was masking the pain with alcohol often and that just made things worse,” he said. “Eating well and getting outdoors around nature is also really helpful for me. If self-medication isn’t an issue then finding opportunities to connect with people is helpful. Also, exercise!”
“What I neglected to do after my dad’s passing was take care of myself,” he said. “You can’t be there for others if you are not paying attention to your needs and struggles. Take the time to do what you need to do to get through the day first. Then you’ll have a fuller cup to be there for others.”
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The best lesson he learned from his famous father was “that being unconditionally loving and kind and considerate is one of the secrets to living a full life. That and finding connection and common ground,” he said.
“Oh, also, finding gratitude in the day-to-day life is a simple, wonderful way to feel good,” he added.
Zak recently opened up about watching his late father’s struggles in an interview with Good Morning Britain last month, ahead of the fifth anniversary of his death.
“It was sad to see someone who was suffering so. As a family member and a child, you want to do everything you can to help soothe and ease what seemed to be intense personal pain,” he said of the comedian.
”And there were times where it felt like there was helplessness from my part, I didn’t know what I could do, or how I could be of the best support,” Zak said.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.