WASHINGTON, August 14, 2014 – We are all asking why Robin Williams has taken his life. Adding yet another layer to his very public battle with depression is the information that he was recently diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with the disease in 1991 and has publicly shared his battle, establishing the Michael J. Fox Foundation to promote research for treatments and a cure.
Fox has often said a PD diagnosis is like standing in the middle of a road with cement shoes on, hearing a bus approaching.
“One doesn’t know how large the bus is or how fast it is going, but you know it will hit you.”
Parkinson’s disease is not fatal, in and of itself, but it is the 14th top cause of death in the US and there is no cure. The disease attacks the area of the brain that creates dopamine, breaking the connection from brain to body that allows humans to have smooth, coordinated muscle movements.
Between 50,000 and 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. The disease was first described in 1817 by English doctor James Parkinson. More men contract the disease than women.
Many people are familiar with the visible tremors caused by Parkinson’s. New theories offered by Parkinson.org are that:
“the earliest signs of Parkinson’s are found in the enteric nervous system, the medulla and in particular, the olfactory bulb, which controls your sense of smell. Under this theory, Parkinson’s only progresses to the substantia nigra and cortex over the years. This theory is increasingly borne out by evidence that non-motor symptoms, such as a loss of sense of smell, hyposmia, sleep disorders and constipation may precede the motor features of the disease by several years.”
Parkinson’s can also increase depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.
Susan Schneider, wife of Robin Williams, released a statement saying that he was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. She further encouraged those battling depression, anxiety and other illnesses to seek the care and support they need.
Following is the statement in its entirety:
“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. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.
“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.”
Schneider has asked the media to publish her statement in its entirety.