Robin Williams from the Foundation’s Perspective

Over the last week, we’ve all watched news stories and seen tributes honoring the memory of Robin Williams. Both his boundless talents as an actor and his abysmal struggles with substance abuse and depression have been on our minds. It is deeply saddening to see someone with such great gifts feel such despair that only one choice offers a chance for relief.

As the Executive Director of the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety, I know only too well how devastating anxiety, depression and substance abuse can affect an individual. While Andy Kukes’s story did not make headlines, his life met the same tragic end before he could express his full talents.

Many of us have watched story after story of people of suffering from many types of metal health issues. We are deeply moved by their pain and that of their families who wanted nothing more than to see them succeed and find a better life.

Media attention brought the Robin Williams story to the forefront of our national consciousness. Seasoned experts opined on treatment options. Yet I ask myself, ”Why is our collective focus so fleeting when the results can be so devastating?” One can certainly not blame media, since the industry exists to track a shifting landscape. Most families of those suffering from a debilitating mental illness are overwhelmed by the physical and emotional energy that it takes to present a “normal” façade. Nonprofit organizations are in a daily struggle to raise funds, fund grants and pursue meaningful research and treatment options. We have seen heroic donors who have taken a personal stake in making improvements. In spite of these efforts, too many continue to suffer from a lack of treatment, ineffective and infrequent interventions and a pervasive lack of understanding by the public.

Any lasting change in medicine or healthcare is often propelled by legislation. We have seen that in our history with immunizations, education and research. True parity for mental healthcare within the larger health community remains out of reach.

I do know that each of us needs to make mental health an important part of our lives and for those we love and care about. Make the commitment to mental health a story that defines our sense of the community where we live. Care deeply and openly about family, friends and neighbors. Commit to being an engaged person in a community where everyone matters!

Through our united vigilance we can help avoid the tragedies that have befallen the families of Robin Williams and Andy Kukes.
We offer our deepest sympathies to the family, friends and community affected by Robin William’s death. We also offer these same sympathies to those we do not know but who have also suffered a similar loss.

There is hope. Find help, seek support and learn more at

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