Robin Williams suffered from Parkinson's Disease - wife

By Josie Ensor

Friend says Robin Williams needed the money but associated exhaustion left him vulnerable to depression

Robin Williams speaking at The 24th American Cinematheque Awards. Photo / AP
Robin Williams speaking at The 24th American Cinematheque Awards. Photo / AP

Hollywood actor Robin Williams, found dead this week after an apparent suicide, was suffering from depression and the early stages of Parkinson's disease, his wife has revealed.

The beloved comedian's personal assistant found Williams dead in a bedroom of his California home on Monday, sparking speculation about his long public battle with addiction.

But Susan Schneider, issuing a statement through an agency, said the 63-year-old's most recent problems had been with his mental health and with Parkinson's, a degenerative nerve disorder.

"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.

"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."

The coroner of Marin County, outside San Francisco, where the couple lived has opened an inquiry into the death, but has confirmed it as a suspected suicide, pending toxicology reports.

"Robin spent so much of his life helping others," Schneider said.


"Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the frontlines, 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," she added.

Remakes left Williams 'drained'

Robin Williams resented having to work on films such as the second Mrs Doubtfire but felt compelled to keep money coming in, a close friend of the actor says.

Williams, who had been working on four projects when he was found dead after an apparent suicide this week, was said to have been dreading making more films as they "brought out his demons".

He had committed to starring in sequels to the hugely successful Mrs Doubtfire and Night in the Museum, as well as comedy Merry Friggin' Christmas and the drama Boulevard. But a neighbour and friend of over a decade said he no longer wanted to work on films as he felt they were not conducive to his mental well-being.

"Robin had promised himself he would not do any more as he invested so much in his roles that it left him drained and particularly vulnerable to depressive episodes," the friend told the paper.

"He signed up to do them purely out of necessity. He wasn't poor, but the money wasn't rolling in any more and life is expensive when you have to pay off two ex-wives and have a family to support."

His friend, who declined to be named, said he last saw the actor three weeks ago when the two of them went on one of their regular bike rides around their hometown of Tiburon, just north of San Francisco. Williams was a keen cyclist, a hobby his friend believed distracted him from his problems. The friend confirmed he had checked himself into rehab last month after falling back into his old habits.

He said the Mork & Mindy star was a big family man, a "homebody" who did not go out much and liked to focus on life with his wife and her sons.

He said he preferred living in the small community in Tiburon, rather than in LA, as he was naturally a quiet and introspective person.

"He didn't like being away from the family for too long, which was a big issue for him when he was shooting films," the friend said. "That's why he agreed to do the TV show [The Crazy Ones]. It was filmed nearby in San Francisco and they were very flexible with him.

"He was hit hard when they cancelled it - it was helping him pay the bills."

He reportedly made US$165,000 ($194,756) an episode for the first season, which was aired on CBS.

The friend said that despite Williams' problems, he was shocked to hear of his death: "I have been very moved by it, it was not something I expected. I fear his family, while shocked and saddened, may have had more of an idea it was coming.

"His wife was very worried by the end, but she knew what she was getting into with him. Their marriage was great, very strong. It was all about what was going on inside of him."

The friend, whose son goes to the same school as Williams' stepson, said that rather than being purely about money, or work, it was a "confluence" of several factors that might have led him to take his own life.

"He told me his heart surgery in 2009 had left him feeling like a mortal for the first time in his life, and he didn't like how that felt."

Williams daughter bullied by trolls

The grieving daughter of Robin Williams has quit Twitter and Instagram after online "trolls" bullied her over her father's suicide.


Zelda Williams with her father Robin Williams. She was left shaking after being sent a photo of a dead body. Photo / AP

Zelda Williams, 25, said she was left "shaking" after being sent a mortuary photograph said to show her father's body. It was actually a picture taken several years ago of another man who died from asphyxiation.

The two Twitter users who sent her the pictures have been suspended by the site.

Miss Williams also hinted that she had been the subject of "cruel and unnecessary" criticism over the apparently small number of pictures of her father she had posted online, saying: "The real private moments I shared with him were precious, quiet, and believe it or not, not full of photos or 'selfies'."

All three of Williams' children paid tributes yesterday.

Miss Williams said: "My last day with him was his birthday, and I will be forever grateful that my brothers and I got to spend that time alone with him, sharing gifts and laughter."

Her half-brother, Zachary, 31, said: "I lost my father and a best friend and the world got a little greyer." Her younger brother, Cody, 23, said: "There are no words strong enough to describe my love and respect for my father."

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
The Word
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
CASPER Suicide Prevention

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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