Robin Williams’ death prompts a difficult conversation, about suicide and mental illness.

Ottawa comedian Mike MacDonald has shared his own battle with depression and says the best way to honor Williams is to help erase the stigma. While everyone is expressing shock over the death of Robin Williams, Mike MacDonald says suicide never surprises him.  He says he understands it completely but wishes Williams had got the help he needed.  MacDonald is Ottawa's ultimate funny man.  But the comedian has dealt with some very unfunny things in his life.  Like Robin Williams, who he knew, MacDonald has suffered bi-polar disorder and attempted suicide.

“I tried it three times myself,” says MacDonald, “and fortunately I’ve been unsuccessful but this is the kind of success you don't wish on anyone.”

It's not unusual for comedians to experience extreme highs on stage then plummet to a low off-stage.

In Halifax for a fundraiser, MacDonald learned about the actor's suicide just before taking the stage.

“If there’s something good that would come out of this,” he told CTV Halifax, “it would be to focus on mental health and to get help, tell somebody you're having problems.”

That's the message from the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region, too.  The centre says of the forty-three thousand calls they got last year, 15 percent were related to suicide.  They worry Williams' death could be a trigger for some.

"It can definitely be a trigger for someone who is saying “Robin Williams had it all, the comedy, the money, the fame and fortune, says Leslie Scott, with the Distress Centre, “but he took his life so what's left for me? That's where we want to tell people their life is important;  that's worth picking up the phone and calling us.”

As comedian Lamont Ferguson opens a show in Ottawa tonight at the Absolute Comedy Club, the actor's death will be very much on his mind. 

“I was absolutely stunned,” says the California comedian, who had met Williams on a couple occasions. He says the world has lost an amazing talent and a wonderful human being.

“There's nothing to replace him; it's Robin Williams,” he says, “There’s no way there will be another guy like him.”

"The nicest people in the world commit suicide,” adds MacDonald, “and then people are at a loss as to why.”

MacDonald says if you know someone battling depression, reach out to them, keep tabs on them and let them know where to go for help. The Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region runs a 24 hour/7 day a week crisis line.  That number is 613-238-3311.