"Robin's Wish" Explores the Brain Disease That Led to Robin Williams's Death

Kayla Blanton
·3 mins read
Photo credit: Theo Wargo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Theo Wargo - Getty Images

From Prevention

When Robin Williams’s cause of death was ruled a suicide in 2014, a sense of confusion fell over the public. Because the acclaimed actor was known for his joyous disposition and commitment to laughter, the news was hard to believe. In a new interview with Today, his widow Susan Williams revealed what went on in the years leading up to his death. He faced a degenerative brain disease called Lewy Body dementia, or LBD.

“Robin and I knew there was so much more going on,” Susan told Hoda Kotb on Today. “Robin was right when he said to me, ‘I just want to reboot my brain.’ In that moment, I promised him that we would get to the bottom of this. And I just didn't know that would be after he passed.”

When she was called to review the coroner’s report, the diagnosis was clear—it explained all of the symptoms Robin experienced before his death, including cognitive impairment, paranoia, and more. “They sat me down and said he essentially, Robin died of diffused Lewy body dementia,” she said. “He wasn’t in his right mind.”

According to the National Institute on Aging, Lewy body dementia “is a disease associated with abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain,” which affects chemicals in the brain that then “can lead to problems with thinking, movement, behavior, and mood.” It’s often difficult to diagnose, although it’s the second most common form of degenerative dementia, per the Lewy Body Dementia Association.

Photo credit: Rick Diamond - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rick Diamond - Getty Images

In a new documentary called Robin’s Wish, Susan hopes to set the record straight about her husband’s diagnosis, and to raise awareness about brain disease. In the program trailer, Robin’s friends share insight into his noticeable behavior changes, and Dr. Bruce Miller, director of Memory and Aging at the University of California San Francisco, calls Robin’s case “about as devastating a form of Lewy body dementia as I had ever seen.” Before he died, the Good Will Hunting star was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but feared he had dementia or schizophrenia, and quickly began losing his sense of reality.

“I was relieved it had a name,” Susan explained to Kotb, referring to LBD. “Robin and I had gone through this experience together, really being chased by an invisible monster. And it was like whack-a-mole with the symptoms. I left there with a name of the disease, the thing that Robin and I had been searching for.” And now, she’s ready to share it with the world.

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