Robin Williams had Parkinson’s disease, widow says

Robin Williams was 63 when he died August 11

FILE - This June 15, 2007 file photo shows actor and comedian Robin Williams posing to promote his film, "License To Wed" in Santa Monica, Calif. Williams, whose free-form comedy and adept impressions dazzled audiences for decades, has died in an apparent suicide. He was 63. The Marin County Sheriff’s Office said Williams was pronounced dead at his home in California on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. The sheriff’s office said a preliminary investigation showed the cause of death to be a suicide due to asphyxia. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
FILE - This June 15, 2007 file photo shows actor and comedian Robin Williams posing to promote his film, "License To Wed" in Santa Monica, Calif. Williams, whose free-form comedy and adept impressions dazzled audiences for decades, has died in an apparent suicide. He was 63. The Marin County Sheriff’s Office said Williams was pronounced dead at his home in California on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. The sheriff’s office said a preliminary investigation showed the cause of death to be a suicide due to asphyxia. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robin Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and was sober at the time of his apparent suicide, 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 was found dead earlier this week. Authorities said the actor-comedian’s death was suicide.

Schneider did not offer details on when Williams had been diagnosed or his symptoms.

Susan Schneider’s statement

Robin Williams, right, and his wife Susan Schneider at the premiere of "Old Dogs" in Los Angeles, Nov. 9, 2009 (AP Photo/Katy Winn, File)
Robin Williams, right, and his wife Susan Schneider at the premiere of “Old Dogs” in Los Angeles, Nov. 9, 2009 (AP Photo/Katy Winn, File)

“Robin spent so much of his life helping others. Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the front lines, or comforting a sick child — Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid.

Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.

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.

It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a small tremor in one hand. The disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

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.

“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.

Williams had publicly acknowledged periodic struggles with substance abuse. Recently, depression prompted him to enter rehab.

Schneider said that those who loved Williams are taking solace in the outpouring of affection and admiration for him.

“It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid,” she said in her statement.

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