Robin Williams had Parkinson’s disease, says wife

Robin Williams, right, pictured in 2010. His widow said he had been  diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson's disease. Picture: AP
Robin Williams, right, pictured in 2010. His widow said he had been diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson's disease. Picture: AP
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ROBIN Williams was receiving treatment for the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, but was “not yet ready” to make his diagnosis public, his widow revealed last night.

The actor and comedian, who was found dead at his Los Angeles home earlier this week, was also sober at the time of his apparent suicide, Susan Schneider said. However, Ms Schneider, the star’s wife of three years, said he had been struggling with depression and anxiety.

The graphic designer said she hoped her “brave” husband’s death would offer encouragement to other people to seek out help for “whatever battles” they are facing in life.

The Oscar-winning actor is believed to have hanged himself at the couple’s home in the early hours of Monday morning. As well as sending shockwaves through Hollywood, his death has prompted an outpouring of support for the work of mental health organisations and counsellors.

The father-of-three had endured long and difficult battles with alcoholism, drug addiction and depression, and had recently entered a rehabilitation programme in Minnesota to “fine tune” his sobriety, according to his publicist.

But Ms Schneider said the 63-year-old had sworn to give up the bottle and was concentrating on tackling other health issues

In a statement, she explained: “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.”

In a tender tribute which reflected on her late husband’s many qualities, Ms Schneider added: “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. ”

Ms Schneider, who met Williams shortly before he underwent heart surgery in 2009 and married him two years later after helping to nurse him back to health, did not give any details on when he had been diagnosed or what symptoms he had been suffering.

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.

In his 1990 film, Awakenings, Williams played a fictionalised version of Dr Oliver Sachs, the British neurologist, who begins using a supposed miracle cure on patients with Parkinson’s.

Other high-profile actors have the disease, most notably Michael J Fox, the star of the Back to the Future trilogy.

Williams’ friend, the Glasgow-born comedian and actor, Billy Connolly, was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s last year.


Tributes paid after death of Robin Williams at 63