Robin Williams was a well-known and beloved actor and comedian. His fast-paced improvisational comedy style, impressions, and roles in films like Dead Poets Society, Aladdin (1992), and Good Will Hunting have made him a Hollywood legend. Unfortunately, on August 11, 2014, he passed away at age 63 after suffering from severe depression, Parkinson’s disease, and Lewy body dementia. Despite five years passing, William’s death is still painful to many of his fans.
His wife, graphic designer Susan Schneider, released a statement after William’s demise, thanking the outpouring of support. “Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.” 
Williams also left a legacy of altruism, a less known one. While many celebrities engage in philanthropy for clout, William’s actions often went unrecognized. After his death, more and more of his deeds are coming to light, leaving his fans mourning his loss once again. One of these was raising almost $50,000 for a food bank in Seattle between 2004 and 2008.
Robin Williams Privately Raised Money For Charity
After the death, the volunteers at the food bank felt the loss deeply. “It’s threefold, actually,” said volunteer Mike Cervino. “One because he was a great comedian. Two, because he donated here, and three because people really rely on that here.”
It began in 2004 when Robin Williams performed a stand-up act at the Showbox nightclub in Seattle. Without any pomp or fanfare, he donated all of his earnings to the food bank to the surprise of Executive Director Fran Yeatts. “I was just astounded.”
According to Yeats, Williams also performed comedy shows in 2007 and 2008, donating almost $50,000 to the food bank. Keep in mind that this was during a recession when people needed more help than ever. And never once did Williams tote this accomplishment. “Robin Williams is the type of person who really understands there are a lot of people who are really, really struggling,” Yeatts said.
“He was this real guy, this regular Joe that had the same issues”
Another volunteer, Bill Bacon, struggles with bipolar disorder, so he can relate to the suffering felt during depression. Yet he believes that Robin Williams’ life will continue to inspire others, and how his life ended won’t change that. “In spite of the problems that some people have, they can still aspire to great things,” he said. “I think Robin Williams is a classic example of that.“
Volunteer Aaron Ellis got to meet Robin Williams backstage at Showbox in 2004 and they two had a lot in common. “He was this real guy, this regular Joe that had the same issues,” Ellis said. At the time, both struggled with addiction and depression. However, Williams’ willingness and ability to connect with a ‘regular’ person highlighted that encounter for Ellis. “He said it was an honor for him to be able to do these things, to give back. That meant the world to me. It solidified my sobriety to this day.“
A decade after this meeting, Ellis is still sober and hopes to return to his volunteer work at the food bank. He adds that he hopes that people suffering from the deep darkness of depression will be able to find help and that others will work to understand instead of judging. “I realize it makes no sense, but it’s what happens,” he said. “This is our reality.” 
Raising Awareness About Depression
After Robin Williams’ death, his son, Zak Williams began to battle severe depression, which exacerbated his long-standing anxiety. Alcohol and cannabis only worsened his anxiety and prescription drugs made him “feel numb and not like myself.” In the end, he found relief through community service and supplements with L-theanine and Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). So he and his wife began to develop their own “mood chew” with their company PYM, which stood for “Prepare Your Mind.”
Aside from selling supplements, PYM is working to become a platform to provide support and education about mental health. “I think my dad would be appreciative of what we’re doing, as someone who dealt with high anxiety for most of his life,” Zak said. “I would hope he would understand why we’re doing what we’re doing — to advocate for mental health support and break down stigma at scale.” 
Robin Williams’ death by suicide was shocking for many reasons. But one question was asked more than any other: “How could someone who seemed so happy have depression?” The answer is simple: depression is not just being sad. It’s a disease that distorts people’s perceptions, impacting all facets of their lives, and making them feel like life isn’t worth living. Many try to hide their depression because of the many misconceptions about the disorder. However, healing requires proper treatment, support, and awareness. And there’s still a long way to go when it comes to understanding and awareness. 
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- “Robin Williams Biography.” Biography. April 27, 2021
- “Robin Williams donated proceeds to Seattle food bank.” USA Today. Eric Wilkinson.
- “Robin Williams’s Son Zak Battled Depression Too. Now His Mental Health Startup Has a New Product and $1 Million.” Inc. Lindsay Blakely. October 27, 2020
- “Robin Williams: Raising Awareness About Depression.” ACL. October 10, 2014