Robin Williams' Suicide Tied to Parkinson's Diagnosis

Image: Robin Williams' Suicide Tied to Parkinson's Diagnosis (Monty Brinton/CBS/Landov)

Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 03:13 PM

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The revelation that Robin Williams was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease sheds a new light on what may have driven the comic superstar to commit suicide. 
 
“In a person who is already suffering from depression, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease could very well have exacerbated that and made the idea of suicide much more realistic,” says nationally known psychotherapist Fran Sherman.
 
ALERT: Protect Your Brain From Parkinson's and Other Neurological Diseases!

“Chronic neurological disease, which eventually can kill, would make someone who suffers from depression feel even more hopeless and helpless.”   
 
Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, revealed in a written statement Thursday that the actor had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She also said that Williams was in the early stages of the disease, and had not wanted to make his diagnosis public yet.

Williams’ “sobriety was intact” at the time of his death, she added. The comedian had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, and recently had completed a stint in rehab.

"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.
 
"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."

The Academy Award-winning actor was found dead of suicide in his home on Monday, having hung himself with his belt. Since then, friends and fans have publicly wondered what might have led Williams, who was adored throughout the world, to commit such an act. 
 
About one million Americans suffer from Parkinson’s disease, which is a chronic, progressive and “very challenging” disease, notes Dr. Gary Small, M.D., professor and director of the UCLA Longevity Center. 
 
“Parkinson’s disease affects motor function. People become stiff, have trouble walking, and there are also mental symptoms. In some cases, it can cause a mental disease that looks like Alzheimer’s disease, but isn’t,” says Dr. Small, a Newsmax Health contributor and author of the Mind Health Report Newsletter.   
 
In addition, up to 40 percent of people with the disease experience mild or moderate depression. Research also suggests that Parkinson’s causes chemical changes in the brain that have been linked to depression, Dr. Small adds. 
 
“Not everyone who is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease gets depressed, but in someone who already had a predisposition to [depression], the diagnosis can worsen it,” he explains. “This isn’t true of everyone, but when people are aware of their functional deficits, that can worsen depressive symptoms. It depends on the case,” he added. 
 
The diagnosis may have added to Williams’ worries about money. He had already revealed publicly a few years ago that his two divorces had cost him millions, and that he’d had to return to TV work in a series, which had recently been cancelled. 
 
“Many people with Parkinson’s disease can continue working. It depends on the severity of the case,” says Dr. Small. He acknowledged, though, that this is less common with people in the performing arena, although Michael J. Fox is a rare exception. 
 
He adds that although Parkinson’s disease is incurable, there are effective treatments that work best when started shortly after diagnosis. 
 
“Even though Parkinson’s is a chronic debilitating illness without a cure, there are many treatments available that can help significantly with symptoms,” he notes. “People should be encouraged to see their doctors and get a proper evaluation sooner than later.”

ALERT: Protect Your Brain From Parkinson's and Other Neurological Diseases!



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