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I was absolutely shocked to hear of the passing of one of the comedic legends of all time, Robin Williams, who took his life on Monday. He had been troubled for a long time with depression and had sought out help, but sadly so many do not even take that step and tragically lose or take their own lives.

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Williams was a true genius, making the world laugh for decades and helping so many in pain find some solace with his humor, if only for a short time.

That is what makes what happened even sadder. Williams, who made so many lives that much brighter, simply could not make himself content or happy. Depression and other mental illness is a problem that affects millions of Americans each year, and what is the scariest of all of it is that so many are afraid, unwilling or feel like they are unable to get the help they need.

A few months ago, my uncle, who, in a striking twist of fate, went to school with Robin Williams at Detroit County Day   — took his own life after a long struggle with depression. I loved my uncle dearly, and it shook me to the core as I felt helpless in my ability to help him. I tried everything I could, but I am not a professional psychologist and the person affected also has to want to get the help they so desperately need.

What hurt the most was that my uncle was so engulfed in the fear of people finding out his issues, that he steered his heart away from getting the help he needed. The news of his death and how it happened was one of the most helpless and gut wrenching moments of my life. I wanted with all my heart to have been able to have done more.

Dan's Uncle Ronnie Leach (left). (Photo: Dan Leach)

Dan’s Uncle Ronnie Leach (left). (Photo: Dan Leach)

There is still a tremendous stigma that comes with the term “mental illness” or “depression” and people need to know that it is completely okay and normal for people to deal with these types of issues. Being concerned about what friends, family and co-workers will think and letting that deter you from getting help is what tragically takes way too many lives.

From 1999 to 2010 the suicide rate among U.S. citizens between the ages of 35-64 soared to by about 30 percent to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 — a jump from 13.7 percent. So many more turn to drugs and alcohol to ease their pain, something I have been personally affected by in my own life and also takes way too many of us from our loved ones.

The world can be a truly overwhelming place these days with all the advances in technology, the shrinking of the family unit and the constant pressure many people feel to achieve a certain status. We have lost so much of the innocence that was the norm when my parents were growing up.

That doesn’t mean we have to lose sight of who we truly are and how we are all in pain at times and how it is okay to search and seek for solutions to help ease that pain and help us achieve balance in our lives.

Robin Williams was a beautiful human being who was tortured by his own greatness. There are so many out there reading this right now that are in tremendous pain themselves. If even one of you feels like it is not okay to be in that spot and be able to get help, that is one too many.

My hope is that since Williams was such a big name and such an impactful human being that many will learn from his struggle and untimely death, that getting the help you need sometimes can be the only way to save yourself.

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My thoughts and prayers go out to Robin’s family, as well as to all that loved him and his work.

R.I.P., R.W. — your death will not be in vain.

Here is a list of many resources if you are someone who is currently struggling with depression, mental illness, or addiction. Please know that you are not alone and that your life is too valuable to not give yourself a break and get help if you need it. There are also many free ways to get help if you are out of work, have a low-income, or are homeless that I have listed below.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
24-Hour Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority

Oakland County Suicide Prevention Coalition

#I Will Listen
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Help Line (800) 950-6264 

Depression and Bi-Polar Support Alliance

Alcoholics Anonymous of Greater Detroit

Alcoholics Anonymous of Oakland County
24-Hour Hotline: (248)332-3521

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Metro Detroit Region Narcotics Anonymous