NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Actor-comedian Robin Williams had Parkinson’s disease and was sober at the time of his apparent suicide, his widow said in a statement released Thursday.
Susan Schneider said that Williams was struggling with depression, anxiety and the early stages of Parkinson’s when he was found dead earlier this week.
“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 in a statement. “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 is a nervous system disorder that affects movement, often starting with tremors in the hand, CBS 2’s Matt Kozar reported. Sometimes, the face will show little expression and speech may be slurred.
Those symptoms attack the tools of an actor, especially one like Williams who is famous for his energy and vigor, Kozar reported. Fellow actor Michael J. Fox has been living with Parkinson’s for more than 20 years and has become a strong advocate for research.
As CBS 2 reported, studies show the disease can cause chemical changes in the brain, leading to depression.
“Problems with mood and anxiety are not uncommon. They can be sometimes the early symptom in Parkinson’s,” Dr. Susan Bressman of Mt. Sinai Beth Israel explained.
The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation reports up to 60 percent of patients experience some depressive symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease forced Fox to cut back on his acting.
“Robin spent so much of his life helping others. 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,” Schneider’s statement read. “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.”
Williams is best known for his roles in the TV sitcom “Mork & Mindy” and in films such as “Good Will Hunting,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Dead Poets Society.”
He also starred in a number of theatrical productions, including Mike Nichols’ 1988 off-Broadway version of “Waiting for Godot” alongside Steve Martin, and his one-man show “Robin Williams: Live on Broadway.”
He also appeared in Broadway’s “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” in 2011.
Broadway went dark Wednesday night in honor of Williams.
Theatergoers paused as the marquee lights of the theaters on the Great White Way were dimmed for one minute at 7:45 p.m.
Williams’ picture also appeared on the marquee screen at the Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St.
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