Zak Williams shared the pain of losing his father, renowned actor Robin Williams, who died by suicide in 2014.
“After my dad died by suicide, I was diagnosed with complex PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and was doing super unhealthy things like self-medicating, using alcohol,” Williams said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference in Marina Del Rey, Calif., Wednesday. “I realized something had to change.”
Williams focused his attention on mental health advocacy after managing his own symptoms with amino acid therapy along with other mindfulness, breath-work, and self-care practices. As one in five people experiences a mental health problem in the U.S., and rates of anxiety and depression have risen in recent years with startling statistics among the nation’s youth, Williams felt compelled to share his own healing process with others.
“I realized I could actually start healing my trauma through service, and I discovered that service is my path to happiness,” he said at Fortune’s conference.
“Through my personal journey I realized that there were populations all throughout the U.S. and the world that were experiencing extreme amounts of overwhelm,” he said, adding that implementing lifestyle changes and self-care practices can support people’s mental health. “Our mental health care system in the U.S., but also abroad, was not equipped to manage crisis care at scale that this sense of overwhelm, the collective trauma, was activating.”
Along with his wife, he founded mental health startup Prepare Your Mind (PYM), whose mission is to combat the mental health crisis through “mental hygiene products” promoting self-care and lifestyle habits—targeting those who may not have access to a traditional mental health provider owing to the overwhelmed system.
“The key thing for us, and really what it’s about, is accessibility and expanding people’s awareness around things like natural solutions that are just an extension of the toolkit,” he said.