Michigan father turns grief into fight against mental health stigma

How his son’s battle with mental health would forever change his life
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Kevin Fischer attended the “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” rally at Michigan’s capital Thursday to share the story of his son, Dominique.

Dominique was diagnosed with mental illness in 2007. Three years later, in 2010, Dominique would lose his life to suicide.

Fischer said the mental health treatment his son received was helping. That was until the people closest to Dominique found out about his diagnosis. The stigma was unbearable.

“People turned away from him. Family and friends distanced themselves from him,” said Fischer.

Dominique, once social and well-liked, became isolated due to misconceptions about mental health disorders. Fischer believes this was the cause of his son’s death.

“Watching Dominique struggle with the stigma was almost as bad as losing him to suicide,” Fischer said. “It hurt him, it hurt him deeply. As a father, it’s really hard to watch your child know that he’s being marginalized by something that wasn’t his fault.”

Fischer thinks that this could be prevented in the future if people treated mental health issues as they would any other medical problem.

“We wouldn’t make a person who was recently diagnosed with cancer feel bad. We wouldn’t make a person who’s recently diagnosed with diabetes feel bad,” Fischer said. “We need a treat mental illness like any other medical diagnosis.”

Dominique’s legacy lives on through his father, who left the business world to become a mental health advocate full-time. Fischer now belongs to an extensive network of advocacy and policy groups and holds prestigious titles in many.

“Dominique remains my inspiration for the work that I do. It’s not just for him, I think my son would be terribly disappointed if I didn’t utilize his experience to help others,” Fischer said. “My involvement as a behavioral healthcare advocate goes beyond being a father who lost his son because he’s gone now. My true mission is to help those who are still living with mental illness, continue to encourage them to seek the help they need, encourage our society to please stop the stigma, and allow grace to get the treatment they need.”

He said there is a lot of work to do, but that he will continue to fight for a kinder and more inclusive Michigan.

The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline offers anonymous assistance and support without judgement. It can be reached 24/7 at 988.

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