Robin Williams is famous for warming the hearts and having an impact on so many that have seen his movies. His depth enabled him to take on many different roles in various films from comedies to dramas. From seriously sad to hilariously real, not to mention the voice acting for the beloved Genie from Aladdin. His wife has decided to share the truth about why he took his own life.
Robin Williams and dementia
Robin Williams made quite the name for himself in Hollywood. With roles in big production movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Good Morning Vietnam, and Patch Adams. He even did the voice for everyone’s favorite genie from Aladdin! No matter what he was in, people appreciated the film more because of it.
In 2014, Robin Williams tragically took his own life. He was 63 years old, and, at first, it was assumed it was related to depression. However, his widow, Susan Schneider, explained that depression was but a small part of a much larger problem. “It was not depression that killed Robin. Depression was one of, let’s call it, fifty symptoms, and it was a small one.”
Unfortunately, Williams suffered from Lewy body dementia (LBD) which was only diagnosed after he had already died. During the autopsy, the doctors were able to see that his brain was filled with Lewy bodies. In an interview, Susan explained her reaction when she first found out. “The doctors said to me after the autopsy: ‘Are you surprised that your husband had Lewy bodies throughout his entire brain and brain stem?’ I didn’t even know what Lewy bodies were,” Susan admitted. “But, I said: ‘No, I’m not surprised.’ The fact that something had infiltrated every part of my husband’s brain? That made perfect sense.”
The Good Morning Vietnam actor was an extremely fast thinker. This made him a great actor because he could improvise most of his lines. However, Lewy body dementia affected his ability to do this, and the memory loss didn’t help either. Schneider explained how it started to change Robin’s character.
“It was very out of character for Robin to be so paranoid. And that was the start of this 10-month drumbeat of increasing symptoms. And, the thing with LBD is the symptoms don’t come all at once – they change. So they’re incredibly confusing to the patient and caregiver.”
Susan Schneider Williams went on a mission to try to rectify any misconceptions about Lewy Body disease. This form of dementia accounts for 10-15% of all dementia cases. The term “Lewy bodies” refers to abnormal protein clumps that build up in the brain cells. Some of the symptoms include hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, loss of memory, insomnia, and Parkinson’s. In many cases, LBD is misdiagnosed as either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Schneider decided to make a movie about LBD, but she settled for a documentary of her late husband’s experience with the disease. The autobiography was called Robin’s Wish, and it was released in September 2020. “If my husband weren’t famous I would not have put myself through this. But there were so many misunderstandings out there about what had happened to him, and about Lewy bodies. So, this felt like the right thing to do,” says Schneider.
Susan Schneider and Robin Williams
Susan Schneider and Robin Williams met in 2007. She was walking into a local Apple store, and there he was. “I walked in and saw this man and I thought: ‘I think that’s Robin Williams.’” said Schneider. “Then on my way out, I happened to look at him again and he was smiling at me and something inside me said: ‘Oh, just go over and say hi.’ He was wearing camouflage print so I said: ‘How’s that camo working out for you?’ And he said: ‘Not too good – you found me.’”
Robin was not always the funny witty man we knew so well on screen. He was also a quiet person who liked to think deeply about various topics. “The man at home, my husband, he was quiet, contemplative, and an intellectual. The standup and acting, that was his work.”
- “Robin William’s wife shares reason why he killed himself.” joeuk. Charlie Herbert. August 11, 2022.
- “Robin Williams’s widow: ‘There were so many misunderstandings about what had happened to him’. “ The Guardian. Hadley Freeman. January 1, 2021.
- “Robin Williams killed himself amid heartbreaking fear about future, wife said.” Mirror. Francis Kindon. August 11, 2022.