It is no surprise that the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams in August has been officially called a suicide by the coroner. What is a bittersweet surprise, however, is that Robin Williams’ suicide was not drug or alcohol related.
The Oscar winner had repeatedly grappled with substance abuse throughout his career, but Williams, 63, had no illicit drugs or alcohol in his system when he hanged himself in August. The comic actor died from asphyxia via hanging in his Tiburon , Calif., home, according to the Marin County sheriff’s assistant chief deputy coroner Lt. Keith Boyd.
Williams suffered from severe depression, paranoia and early-stage Parkinson’s disease. (He also reportedly suffered from financial problems and a waning career.) The toxicology tests performed by the coroner revealed prescription medications, including an antidepressant, in the actor’s system in normal therapeutic levels, Boyd reported.
Williams, who had long struggled with cocaine and alcohol addiction and severe depression became increasingly troubled prior to hanging himself in his absent stepson’s bedroom. His growing paranoia either led to or was a result of severe insomnia and difficulty sleeping soundly. His sleeping disruptions and nightly problems let him to sleep in the bedroom of his stepson, who was away.
Some newly released details in the coroner’s report show that the suicide may have been premeditated. The day before he took his life on Aug. 11, Williams put some of his wristwatches into a sock, which he dropped off at an associate’s house for “safekeeping.” His wife thought the odd watch incident was tied to his paranoia and growing concern about his valuables.
That evening, Williams gave his wife some magazines he purchased for her and played with his iPad prior to retiring to his stepson’s bedroom and locking the door. The next morning, with his wife out, William’s assistant and another staffer became concerned that the actor had not gotten up. After several tries to determine if the comedian was alright, the assistant picked the bedroom lock and found Williams’ body.
The autopsy report also indicated that no suicide note of any kind was found. The authorities thoroughly searched the actor’s call logs, texts, e-mails as well as other cell phone and iPad programs. Williams had not revealed any suicidal intent on any of the material searched.
Williams was born in Chicago in 1951 and spent his early years in Illinois and Michigan. He started college in California as a political science major but dropped out to pursue acting. In 1973, he received a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York, where he and Christopher Reeve were the only two freshman students accepted by John Houseman in the school’s Advanced Program that year. Classmates also included William Hurt and Mandy Patinkin.
Williams was doing stand-up comedy throughout the 1970s. After appearing in 1978 as the alien Mork on Happy Days, reaction to him was so positive that a spin-off, Mork & Mindy, was created. The show ran four years and made Williams a superstar.
Hailed as a comic genius, Williams spent the next three decades as a movie star with roles in comedy and dramatic films. He received Oscar nominations for his roles in Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King, and won the Best Supporting Actor statuette for Good Will Hunting.
Williams’ Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2013 was not widely known. However, reports are that the actor had noticed tremors and other symptoms for several years before seeking a diagnosis.
While his suicide was not drug related, Robin Williams was open about his struggles with cocaine and alcohol addiction. After Williams spent time on a Hazelden addiction treatment campus in Oregon in 2006, he revealed that drinking had become a problem for him again after 20 years of sobriety. This summer, he checked into a Minnesota rehab facility to try and address his growing anxiety, depression and paranoia. Clearly, that treatment did not eradicate the demons that was affecting the actor and led to his death.
By Dyanne Weiss