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Robin Williams had Parkinson's, widow says

August 14, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Robin Williams was dealing with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease when he died of an apparent suicide Monday, his widow revealed today in a statement released to media outlets.

“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,” Susan Schneider said in a statement shared by the Los Angeles Times and other publications. “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,” Schneider said.

On its Facebook page and website, the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) relayed: “We have all been devastated by Robin Williams’ death. We are further saddened to hear that he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s.”

A recent study conducted by NPF found that more than 50 percent of those who have Parkinson’s also have clinical depression, which is part of the disease process, the foundation noted. In fact, the NPF added, “depression affects quality of life more than the motor impairments of the disease,” although it can be managed with medication and counseling. The foundation has links to resources for professionals and others on its website.

Tonight, actor Michael J. Fox, in whom Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed in 1991, tweeted: “Stunned to learn Robin had PD. Pretty sure his support for our Fdn predated his diagnosis. A true friend; I wish him peace.” The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research also posted a statement about Parkinson’s disease and depression on its website.

Representatives for the late actor and comedian's family report that donations in Williams' memory may be made to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix as well as other charities. Williams and Ali, in whom Parkinson's was diagnosed in 1984, were friends, and Williams previously had performed at the former boxer's benefits for Parkinson's disease and other causes.

Updated 9:22 p.m. ET.