Robin Williams’s son Zak says dad’s misdiagnosis could have ‘exacerbated’ his signs: ‘Those medication are not any joke’

Zak Williams, the son of the late Robin Williams, is using his platform to talk about mental health. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP)
Zak Williams, the son of the late Robin Williams, is utilizing his platform to speak about psychological well being. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP)

Zak Williams, the son of the late Robin Williams, is remembering his dad by utilizing his story to make clear the stigma round psychological well being.

In a candid interview with Max Lugavere on his podcast The Genius Life, Williams opened up about his father’s misdiagnosis, watching him wrestle with melancholy and anxiousness, how the expertise led him to be recognized with PTSD, and the way he’s now utilizing his advocacy to heal others. 

“It’s a unique form a suffering in the family context,” Williams mentioned of dementia with Lewy our bodies (DLB), which Robin suffered from the final two years of his life. 

DLB, as outlined by the Alzheimer’s Society, is a sort of dementia that shares signs with each Alzheimer’s illness and Parkinson’s illness, and should account for 10 to 15 p.c of all circumstances of dementia.

The method somebody is affected by DLB is determined by the place the Lewy our bodies are within the mind, however most individuals with the illness have issues with motion and adjustments in psychological talents on the identical time, based on the Alzheimer’s Society.

“We talked several times a week but then it got to the point where we’re talking every day,” Williams mentioned. “I wanted to be there for him on a daily basis. I really wanted to because [DLB] can be really isolating even if you’re with family and loved ones.”

Two years before Robins died by suicide in 2014, he was mistakenly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. However, though his direct cause of death was asphyxia due to hanging, an examination of his brain issue suggested that his real diagnosis was DLB.

Williams, who suggests his dad’s misdiagnosis “may need exacerbated the state of affairs,” adds the drugs to treat Parkinson’s are “no joke. They put you thru it.” 

“The prognosis was totally different than the illness so I feel it might be a state of affairs the place you’re taking stuff and experiencing purely the unwanted effects of [the drug],” he explained. Still, “there’s a variety of efficacy however what I discovered was they’re additionally actually onerous on the thoughts and physique, in order that was onerous to see.”

The illness had a profound influence on Robin’s comedic timing, or his “lightening-quick recall,” which was his signature. “That’s part of being excellent at improvisation. [But] all the symptoms… presented in one part or another,” Williams said. 

“When he died by suicide the [DLB] had progressed, but he was only really two years in,” Williams acknowledged. “I don’t want to say it was a short period — it felt a lot longer than it actually was — but it was a period for him of intense searching and frustration. From my lens, it felt so sad for me because I loved him so much as a dad but also he was one of my best friends and we spent so much time together.”

“For him to open up to me and share his expertise, it’s scary, , and I’ve numerous empathy for members of the family going via related or the identical expertise as a result of it’s simply devastating.”

Following Robin’s death, Williams said he ended up self-medicating using alcohol as a means to “handle my psychological well being” to the point where it created “very dangerous points for me personally,” including some levels of psychosis.

“When I spoke with a psychiatrist, I used to be recognized with PTSD,” said Williams, who is now four years sober. 

Through the support of family and friends, Williams wound up diving into mental health advocacy, working with organizations like Bring Change to Mind, which focuses on developing mental health communities in high schools across the United States and launching anti-stigma campaigns. 

He found the experience “extraordinarily therapeutic.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide than women. Williams argues, in large part, those numbers are due to the lack of opportunities for men to speak openly about mental health struggles.

“It very a lot pertains to stigma and availability and openness to pursing therapy,” he said. “I feel many [men] really feel remoted; many don’t have the retailers wanted.”

Furthermore, Williams argues, the language around suicide must change to help meet that end. 

“I feel it’s a matter of company. The explanation for loss of life, to ‘die by suicide,’ it frames issues very otherwise than ‘he killed himself,’” he explained. “It supplies alternative to offer extra space to the person who dies as a result of the entire premise of committing suicide suggests there was totally different motives, there have been all kinds of underlying issues at play, and when utilizing the time period ‘died by suicide’ it offers house to see it as extra symptomatic — amongst different issues.”

These days, Williams is not only using his platform to help mental health organizations but he’s also become an entrepreneur, having founded PYM, a mental wellness company selling chews infused with all-natural amino acids — specifically the neurotransmitter Gamma-aminobutyric (GABA), which has been shown to help with anxiety.

While he’s certainly been through a lot in the last few years, Williams said that since the death of his father, he’s seen tremendous investments in new research around DLB, something that gives him encouragement.

“Relative to Lewis our bodies dementia, there have been sources which were unlocked and new sources of funding because of what’s been delivered to mild.”

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