Robin Williams’ Son Zak is Raising Awareness About Suicide and Mental Illness

Robin Williams with his son Zachary in 2002 at the “One Hour Photo” premiere. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Appearing in a series of black-and-white photos on the Instagram page for the Faces of Fortitude project, which aims to provide a “safe space” for those affected by suicide, Robin Williams’ son Zachary took part in the campaign.

It’s been 5 years since his father, legendary comedian Robin Williams, committed suicide.

“There’s no education in place to tell you how to deal with this,” Williams says in the Instagram post. “To balance how to grieve privately with your family and then also to have to grieve publicly. While it was nice to be heard, I was spending time on the outer layer instead of on the inside. It wasn’t just the survivor network for me, it was the whole world.”

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“There’s no education in place to tell you how to deal with this. To balance how to grieve privately with your family and then also to have to grieve publicly. While it was nice to be heard, I was spending time on the outer layer instead of on the inside. It wasn't just the survivor network for me, it was the whole world.” Zak is the son of beloved comedian Robin Williams- a suicide loss survivor, entrepreneur, investor, and mental health advocate. He serves on the board for Bring Change To Mind, an org whose mission is to end the stigma and discrimination around mental illness by creating campaigns, storytelling movements, and youth programs to encourage diverse and cultural conversation around mental health. I prepared for days before, even venting to a dear friend moments before Zak arrived. Would I make a fool of myself? Would I accidentally say ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ and burst into tears? I was overwhelmed.Then my friend said something important -they said, “Be yourself, share your pain. His pain is the same.Remember who you are and why you’re there.” So that’s what I did. In front of me sat a man who lost a loved one to suicide. A man who understood the same level of devastation as I did, as so many of us do. I shared my story, of attempt and loss. Then I was honored that he shared with me his feelings of loss, devastation and growth. THAT is what I strive for: To create a safe space for ANYONE who’s been touched by suicide so they feel able to share. For 90 min, we were just 2 people who had lost someone, and found a common ground in our pain. After he left, I packed up, got in my car and started to drive.Then immediately I realized, OH YEAH, I’m not ok. I pulled over to the nearest park and I sobbed for 30 minutes. The tears were a culmination of what I’d accomplished in 18 months, they were hearing this man tell me my project was “extraordinary” and that he was happy to be part of it. That somehow, through the death of my sweet brother, I’ve been able to provide a safe space for Zak Williams and so many other people. It was a defining moment for me and for my project. I’m so fortunate to share words and photos from Zak’s session with you all week.

A post shared by Mariangela Abeo (@facesoffortitude) on

Prior to his father’s death, Zak was notable for his low profile and near invisible presence in Hollywood.

Heavy reported at the time of Robin’s death, “Robin Williams once said that one of the biggest reasons he first quit drugs was the birth of his son Zak.”

Check out Faces of Fortitudes other moving testimonies.

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