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11th Aug 2022

Robin Williams’ wife shares reason why he killed himself

Charlie Herbert

Robin Williams

Thursday marks eight years since the legendary actor passed away

On August 11 2014, the world was left shocked by the tragic news that Robin Williams had taken his own life.

The actor, best known for his roles in Mrs Doubtfire and Good Will Hunting, was known globally for his wit and humour and was one of the biggest names in the entertainment world.

But in the year leading up to his passing, he had struggled with a number of health issues because of an undiagnosed illness.

After complaining of “gut discomfort” at a celebration for him and wife Susan Schneider’s two-year wedding anniversary, the actor went on to develop a resting tremor in his left hand – thought to have been caused by a previous shoulder injury – and began suffering from stomach cramps, heartburn, and digestive issues.

He then started to have issues with his sight and smell, causing him to become more anxious and have disturbed sleep.

Eventually, he experienced motor disturbances, causing him to sometimes freeze mid-movement.

Speaking to the New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff for his biography Robin, Schneider said dealing with the symptoms was like “playing whack-a-mole.”

She said: “It was like this endless parade of symptoms, and not all of them would raise their head at once.

“It was like playing whack-a-mole. Which symptom is it this month? I thought, is my husband a hypochondriac? We’re chasing it and there’s no answers, and by now we’d tried everything.”

Robin Williams married Susan Schneider in October 2011 (Getty)

Friend and fellow actor Billy Crystal said that Williams’ appearance changed dramatically over just a matter of months.

When they went to watch a play in autumn of 2013, Crystal said he was “taken aback by how he looked,” saying that he was “thinner and seemed frail.”

As the evening came to an end and they said goodbye, Williams burst into tears.

But he had yet to be diagnosed with a cause for his symptoms, and shot scenes for the third installment in the Night at the Museum franchise, in which he played Theodore Roosevelt.

After suffering a panic attack and breaking down on set, he told his makeup artist Cheri Minns that he didn’t “know how to be funny” anymore.

When he returned home, he was prescribed antipsychotic medications that only made things worse, with Schneider telling medical journal, Neurology, that he was “losing his mind and he was aware of it.”

Eventually, doctors told the couple in May 2014 that Williams was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. But the comedian didn’t believe the diagnosis, and after tests, medication and rehab his condition was still getting worse.

On August 11 that year, he took his life at the age of 63.

[caption id="attachment_353449" align="alignnone" width="1494"] In 1997, Williams won his only Oscar, for his role in Good Will Hunting (Getty)

Initially, it was thought that depression was to blame. But an autopsy revealed he had in fact been suffering from Lewy body dementia.

This is an aggressive, incurable brain disorder that can cause hallucinations, confusion, fatigue and problems with understanding, memory and judgement.

Medical professionals said it was one of the worst cases of they had ever seen.

With a lot of symptoms also associated with Parkinson’s, it can often be misdiagnosed as this.

Williams had been due to undergo more tests on his brain in the week before his death. But according to Schneider, it was the fear of what the outlook would be after this tests that caused him to take his own life.

Speaking to the Guardian last year, she said: “I think he didn’t want to go. I think he thought: ‘I’m going to get locked up and never come out.'”

For more information about Lewy body dementia, you can visit the NHS website, and for information and help surrounding Parkinson’s disease you can visit the Parkinson’s Foundation.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts you can get help and advice at the following places:

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