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Former child actor Lisa Jakub appeared with Robin Williams in "Mrs. Doubtfire" as his older daughter in 1993. As news of Williams' death spread, Lisa remembered her experience with Williams, explaining on her blog how he helped her when she was kicked out of high school for taking time off to film the movie. Her words of his generosity towards a young actor have resonated. She shares her thoughts and original post with TODAY:
It's hard to write when you're crying.
But then again, I find it hard to not write when I'm crying.
I scribbled these words within a couple hours of learning about Robin's death. I wrote these words for myself, to grieve and express my gratitude. The fact that these words seem to have resonated with others is a testament to how widely Robin was adored and how important it is to remove the stigma and shame surrounding depression.
Farewell to Robin Williams: a thank you note:
Robin Williams died today.
It seems surreal to write that.
But since writing is the way I process the incomprehensible — I find myself writing.
Everyone is tweeting and Facebooking and calling into radio shows about what a great talent Robin was.
Yeah. He was. But that wasn’t what I adored about him. It was the fact that he was an incredibly kind human being.
When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film "Mrs. Doubtfire" for five months, and my high school was not happy. My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a “non-traditional” student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.
It’s devastating, at 14, to have your formal education terminated. I felt like a freak and a reject. When I arrived at work the next day, Robin noticed that I was upset and asked me what was wrong. I explained what had happened, and the next day, he handed me a letter that he wrote to my school. He explained that I was just trying to continue my education while pursuing my career. He wrote embarrassingly kind things about my character and my work, and requested that they reconsider and allow me to return to my classes.
When I told him I still didn’t think they would take me back, he said, “It’s kinda like Amnesty International. That school just needs to know that people know the truth.”
The school framed the letter. They hung it in the principal’s office. But they didn’t invite me to return to school.
But here’s what matters from that story. Robin stood up for me. He was in my corner. I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.
I know I said "thank you" at the time and I’m sure I wrote one of those stiff thank you notes that 14-year-olds write with slanting lines and spelling mistakes. But that all seems so insufficient now.
Even though I had not spoken with Robin in a very long time, I always assumed there would be some future opportunity to tell him that his letter changed my life. It taught me that you stand up for the things that matter. And even if your attempts fail, you tried. You told the truth. You took care of your friends. You fought back.
None of us really know what fights Robin was battling, but I know his struggles were not uncommon. It’s estimated that 16 million people in the U.S. have struggled with depression – and I include myself in that statistic. It’s real and it’s not shameful and there is help available.
You can bring it to the light, you can tell the truth, you can go to a meeting, you can reach out to a friend.
None of us are alone.
And if you have someone in your life that you are grateful for — someone to whom you want to write another heartfelt, slanted, misspelled thank you note – do it. Tell them they made you feel loved and supported. That they made you feel like you belonged somewhere and that you were not a freak.
Tell them all of that.
Tell them today.
The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Lisa Jakub's memoir is being published by Beaufort Books and will be available in the fall of 2015