Robin Williams had early Parkinson’s, wife says

By LYNN ELBER

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – Robin Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease at the time of his death, his wife said Thursday.

In a statement, Susan Schneider said that Williams, 63, was struggling with depression, anxiety and the Parkinson’s diagnosis when he died Monday in his Northern California home. Authorities said he committed suicide.

“Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly,” Schneider said.

Schneider did not offer details on when the actor comedian had been diagnosed or his symptoms.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Department, which said Williams hanged himself, is conducting toxicology tests and interviews before issuing a final ruling. Lt. Keith Boyd of the Marin County Sheriff’s Department did not return phone calls and email messages from The Associated Press seeking comment on Schneider’s statement.

Williams’ death shocked fans and friends alike, despite his candor about decades of struggle with substance abuse and mental health. With Parkinson’s, Williams faced shouldering yet another challenge.

Parkinson’s disease is an incurable nervous system disorder that involves a loss of brain cells controlling movement. Tremors, sometimes starting out in just one hand, are among the early symptoms.

It can also cause rigid, halting walking, slowed speech and sometimes dementia. Symptoms worsen over time and can often be treated with drugs.

Actor Michael J. Fox, who has long had the disease and is known for his efforts to fund research into it, tweeted that he was stunned to learn Williams had early symptoms.

“Stunned to learn Robin had PD. Pretty sure his support for our Fdn predated his diagnosis. A true friend; I wish him peace,” Fox tweeted.

Pop star Linda Ronstadt revealed in 2013 that she had Parkinson’s and said the disease had robbed her of her ability to sing. Boxer Muhammad Ali, the late radio personality Casey Kasem and the late Pope John Paul II are among other well-known figures diagnosed with the disease.

  • barney fife

    Learning that Robin Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s somewhat lessens the impact of his death. Rather than calling it suicide, I choose to see his actions as self-euthanasia. He chose not to go on in life with a debilitating disease. Very understandable.
    R.I.P. Robin