After losing son to suicide, father retools iconic Detroit brand for normalizing mental illness discussions

Dominique Fischer "had the ability to make everyone feel important," his dad remembers. The guy that everybody loved, who was a good student, and a three-sport athlete. 

"He was the kid that would come sit with the kid at the lunch table or on the school bus," Kevin Fischer said of Dominique's time at Detroit Catholic Central High School. 

He could do everything well, but as his dad sees it - a mental illness and the shame that some feel with a diagnosis is what killed his son.

"The primary reason I feel we lost Dominique was due to stigma," Kevin said.

Dominique took medication for his mental illness. But he also worried what people might think if they learned he was struggling so age 23, he stopped. He also quit going to therapy and began self-medicating with marijuana and alcohol.

"On June 27th of 2010, that journey came to an end because we lost Dominique to suicide," said Kevin.

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It's been the father's mission ever since to educate others about mental illness and normalize the discussions that those who are diagnosed need to have to remain healthy. As director of the Michigan Chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, he's using his clout to reposition how groups have these conversations. 

Kevin's focus has led his advocacy to a very specific piece of battling stigma: the apprehension toward mental health awareness among Black citizens. It's year-round work, he says, and gained him recognition during National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.

"In the African American community there is a great mistrust of the medical community," he said. "In the African American community, the stigma of mental illness is ‘you’re crazy,' ‘you’re less than.' We have a tendency to lean more on our faith than treatment.

"We really plan to change the culture because we're really talking about a culture change. We want more people to be comfortable seeking help and the way we do that is by normalizing the conversation."

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Now, as CEO of he's helping fashion an iconic Detroit-based brand into a tool to erode the angst that many internalize around mental health. 

The website has plenty of attire that was inspired out of one of his annual NAMI walks. It will also donate 100% of the profits to the Dominique Fischer Memorial Foundation, which raises funds, awareness, and provides access to resources that support others with mental health."

"It's all about increasing awareness and eliminating the stigma so people will seek the help that they need. We know that stigma is the leading barrier that prevents people from taking the very first step to getting the help they need," he said.