Written by Andrea Martin, Media by Jack Wang
After an autopsy it has been reported that there were no drugs or alcohol in Robin William’s system when he killed himself at his Northern California home in August, officials announced Friday, Nov. 7. The results were released by the Marin County sheriff’s office. They found that Williams had taken prescription medications, but in “therapeutic concentrations.” The official ruling of death was suicide by asphyxia due to hanging. Williams’ body was found in the bedroom of his home in Tiburon in the early morning of Aug. 11. It was suspected that Williams’ death was suicide after the coroner announced the actor had wrapped a belt around his neck.
Williams was sober, but had struggled with depression, anxiety, and the early stages of Parkinson’s disease when he died. Williams’ widow, Susan Schneider, released this information shortly after his death. “Robin spent so much of his life helping others,” she said. “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.” Schneider also described how Williams’ had started to have trouble sleeping, and had showed signs of increasing paranoia before he committed suicide. Medical records confirmed he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in Nov. of 2013, but had symptoms as early as 2011, including left arm tremors and the slowing of left hand movements. Treatments had worked towards some improvement, and he was still physically active before his death.
Controversy Surrounding Williams’ Death
Williams’ death came as a shock to the entertainment world, and has left many wondering why a successful actor would take such drastic actions to kill himself. Some have blamed Williams’ depression and anxiety, but a new revelation is coming out, and it may have something to do with Diffuse Lewy body dementia. The disease came up after an evaluation of the actor’s brain was conducted. Diffuse Lewy body dementia is a degenerative disorder in which nerve cells in the brain are blocked by clumps of a protein substance, or “bodies,” that interfere with function. The Lewy Body Dementia Association says an estimated 1.3 million people have the disorder. A patient with the disease develops a type of dementia that interferes with memory and language, and typically includes vivid visual hallucinations. According to Dr. Gayatri Devi, however, no research has indicated that such hallucinations can lead to suicide. What frequently happens is that a person is misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s when they actually have Lewy body disease, and vice versa, she explained. “Even experienced neurologists have trouble distinguishing between (the two diseases),” says Devi. “There’s not a clear-cut distinction. It’s two diseases that have a kind of intersection where it’s hard to tease them apart.”
From what has been speculated about Williams’ death is that his increased paranoia may have been a result from experiencing hallucinations, but even then some are on the fence about the true factor behind his breakdown. In a leaked report from TMZ, it was noted that Lewy body was a “key factor” that led him to commit suicide with doctors coming to an agreement on how it could affect a person’s change in cognitive ability. Even then, it doesn’t present a clear picture.
Williams was noted for his manic and improvisational comedy, and his deeply felt acting performances. In 1997, Williams won an Oscar for his performance in the film “Good Will Hunting” in which he played a therapist, and starred alongside Matt Damon. Other films that Williams starred in include “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Hook,” “Night at the Museum,” “Jumanji,” and “Aladdin,” where he voiced the charismatic Genie. Throughout his 63 years of entertainment, Williams rarely failed to impress others with his charisma, his talent, and his heart. He did this even when had to fight his own personal demons, which included at least two rehab stints for substance abuse. Williams is considered one of the best stand-up comedians to ever grace an audience with his humorous stories and experiences.
While many acknowledged his wide-range of talents, many also saw his heart-felt contributions to charities. His humanitarian work ranges from hosting Comic Relief, to participating in a biking fundraiser hosted by Lance Armstrong’s cancer support charity, Livestrong, to appearing pro bono in TV spots for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The United Service Organization, or the USO, also hailed Williams’ for his 12 years performing for nearly 90 military personnel in 13 countries. Williams is survived by his wife, and his three children Zak, Zelda, and Cody.