Robin Williams son
Source: Screenshot YouTube/Screenshot YouTube

It’s been nearly seven years since comedic legend Robin Williams passed away in a tragic suicide, but he is still missed by millions of fans from around the world to this day. 

Wednesday would have been Williams’ 70th birthday, and to mark the occasion, his son Zak spoke out to reflect on his father’s final days. 

Zak Opens Up About His Father’s Mental Health Struggles

While appearing on the podcast “The Genius Life,” Zak got candid about Williams’ struggle with mental health.

He talked about how difficult it was to see his father battle depression and be misdiagnosed for years prior to his death, saying that the experience was so bad that it gave him PTSD. 

“It’s a unique form a suffering in the family context,” Zak said of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), which Williams was only found to be suffering from after he had died. 

The Alzheimer’s Society defines DLB as “a type of dementia that shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” and it may account for 10-15 percent of all dementia cases.

“We talked several times a week but then it got to the point where we’re talking every day,” Zak said of his dad’s final years. “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.”

Related: Robin Williams’ Widow Recalls His Final Days – He Had An ‘Invisible Monster’ Chasing Him

Williams’ Devastating Misdiagnosis 

In the two years before Williams committed suicide, he had been misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

His son feels that this misdiagnosis had a devastating impact on the Mrs. Doubtfire star because the drugs used to treat Parkinson’s are “no joke. They put you through it.” 

“The diagnosis was different than the disease so I think it could be a situation where you’re taking stuff and experiencing purely the side effects of [the drug],” Zak explained, adding that still “there’s a range of efficacy but what I found was they’re also really hard on the mind and body, so that was hard to see.”

“When he died by suicide the [DLB] had progressed, but he was only really two years in,” Zak continued. “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 confide in me and share his experience, it’s frightening, you know, and I have a lot of empathy for family members going through similar or the same experience because it’s just devastating,” he added. 

Related: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ Star Reveals How Costar Robin Williams Helped Her Overcome Depression And Anxiety

Zak Struggles After His Father’s Death

Zak struggled after his father’s death and began using alcohol to self-medicate. This then led to some “very harmful issues for me personally,” including some levels of psychosis.

“When I spoke with a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with PTSD,” said Zak, who has been sober for four years now. 

These days, Zak is a mental health advocate who travels the country pointing out that stats from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention show that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women are. 

In this video, Zak shares about how he struggled after his dad died and his path to helping others with personal trauma.

“It very much relates to stigma and availability and openness to pursing treatment,” he said. “I think many [men] feel isolated; many don’t have the outlets needed.”

Robin Williams’ death was an unspeakable tragedy, but the comedian would undoubtedly be very proud to see his son Zak using it to help others.