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Robin Williams' Son Zak Says His Dad "Took Great Lengths" To Focus On Mental Health Before Death

Robin Williams' Son Zak Says His Dad "Took Great Lengths" To Focus On Mental Health Before Death

Following the death of his father, the 37-year-old realized that he needed help, too.

Beloved actor Robin Williams' son Zak is opening up about mental health on the next episode of The Dr. Oz Show shared exclusively with PEOPLE. Robin Williams was 63 years old when died by suicide in August 2014. His death not only affected his friends and family but fans around the world mourned the tragic loss of an incredibly talented comedian and actor. Following his death, Zak said he found himself also struggling with depression and addiction, just like his famous father. "I was acutely aware of my dad's struggles with depression, it manifested in addiction at times, and he took great lengths to support his well-being and mental health, especially when he was challenged. It was something that was a daily consideration for him. The main thing for me was noticing how he went through great lengths to support himself while he could show up for others. It was clear that he prioritized his mental health throughout most of his life, at least that I experienced with him."
 



 

 

After his dad's death, Zak realized that he needed help. "I found myself hitting rock bottom when I wanted to just be numb. I found myself wanting to drink alcohol and just not think. That was something that was really dysregulating for me. I found myself waking up in the morning and feeling like I was having a dissociative experience, but I just didn't want to be living the life I was living. I realized something had to give," he shared. Finding "forms of healing, specifically relating to not only a healthy lifestyle, but also connecting with people," has helped Zak's mental health greatly."I can't stress how important service is to my life. The other thing is I found community support groups to be really helpful. I'm in a 12-Step program, that's very helpful for me personally. For others, it might be connecting through a community organization or through sports, there's any number of things." Zak has been a vocal advocate in spreading awareness about mental health.



 

 

Zak previously told PEOPLE about how he's keeping his father's spirit alive. One way is by working with organizations such as Inseparable, a national policy and advocacy group that works to ensure Americans have access to mental health care amid the coronavirus pandemic. "I stay away from drugs and alcohol, I commit to support groups," he said in May. "One thing I found very healing for me through my experience has been service and commitment to service work specifically around mental health and mental health support organizations. Eating well, committing to a healthy lifestyle. Things that I need in my weekly and daily regimen to better support my well-being."



 

 

Robin Williams not only left a lasting impression on his son but also on his onscreen kids, too, particularly the Hillard children from Mrs. Doubtfire. The kids (now all grown up) are Lisa Jakub as Lydia, Matthew Lawrence as Chris, and a then 5-year-old Mara Wilson as Natalie. 25 years after Mrs. Doubtfire opened on November 24, 1993, the cast fondly remembered Robin Williams in an interview with TODAY. It's been 27 years since the enduring classic comedy hit theatres, but it still touches a chord to everyone who's watched the film, and more so with the cast who got to work with Williams. "To work with Robin was just sheer heaven," said Pierce Brosnan, who played Stu in the movie. "To watch his artistry, his commitment, his passion, his humanity, and just his hard work and commitment to the role, and to everyone on the set, it permeated all our lives. He was so great with kids ... He was very kind, very giving, very funny," said Mara Wilson, who described Williams as "a consummate performer," adding,  "He would make his carpetbag bark like a dog under the table. There were so many times, just innumerable times that he made us laugh."



 

 

Jakub recalled, "One of the most powerful things for me about working with him is that he was very open and honest with me talking about his issues with addiction, depression, and that was so powerful to me at 14," she said. Matthew Lawrence, too, had a similar experience where Williams's frankness was an inspiration to be better. "Robin was like a guiding force," Lawrence said, who was 12 at the time of filming. "Like, he would just, all of a sudden out of the blue look over to me like, 'By the way, don't do drugs! Really messed up my brain. I'm serious. Do not do them.' I was like, 'OK!' That stuck with me." Mara Wilson who was just 5 still remembered the impression Williams had left on her. Williams, she noted, "was just lovely the whole time. He was making hand puppets with us and making all kinds of jokes." "He would make a paper bag bark like a dog under the table," said Wilson. "He never talked down to us. He would get down to our level, literally, looked us in the eye, and talk to us very gently. He was warm and friendly and fun and ridiculous the whole time. But you could tell he really understood and loved kids." Lawrence added, "He had his heart on the sleeve all the time. He was such a loyal and exposed human being."



 

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