Robin Williams, Dementia, and Suicide


Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 10.43.42 PMRobin Williams had Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia.  From what has been reported in the news, he was beginning to suffer from hallucinations and paranoia.  Evidently the combination of the two diseases probably led to his suicide, not ‘classic’  chronic depression as has been reported.  It makes sense.  If I had facing me what was facing him, I’d also be depressed.  He was so young, what he was facing would be enough to make anyone ponder suicide.  I remember, a few weeks before my father died, telling my mother, if I were ever diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, as was he, I swear I would take my own life, not out of fear of the disease (which can be treated these days) but the hell it puts the family through.   My father was diagnosed about three and a half years ago, when he was pushing Stage Three.  Funny thing, but we learned that the disease could be controlled through nutrition and supplements.

I know next to nothing about Lewy Body Dementia.  I do have a problem with the LBDA early differentiating symptoms chart.  Listed as unlikely for AD is changing in walking or movements, early into the disease.  Sorry, but that is one of the ways you can pick up early AD is by changes in movement, walking and gait.  We were dealing with that, at least three years before my father’s AD was diagnosed.  We were also dealing with a touch of paranoia, fluctuating cognitive abilities, and so forth and so on a good three years before diagnosis.  Three years ago we were also dealing with hallucinations, interesting ones.

Let’s face it, LBD is just as bad as AD.  When a person is older, it’s one thing, but to have it strike when you are at the height of your life and future is another.  His death has become a clarion call for treating depression.  The problem is, if you want my humble opinion, in a moment of absolute clarity, he did what I probably would have done. I think many of us would have done the same thing.

Depressing,  yes.  Who wouldn’t be depressed with such a diagnosis.  When my father was first diagnosed with AD, we debated about telling him.  My mother finally did.  She asked my father what his wishes were.  He wanted to continue his life, just the way it was, until he started drooling.  By the use of B-12 injections, supplements, and diet, we were able to stave off the worst of the AD symptoms, even at Stage 6.  He never lost his dignity.  His last coherent words, the evening before he died, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”   Twenty-four hours later, he was gone.

My father had turned 90 in June.  He lived a long and very full life.  Robin Williams was born in 1951.  He was just 63 years old, today, that is so young.  He should have had a long and full life, but his future became bleak.  Like early-onset AD, the dementia he had was going to cloud the remainder of his life.   His family would have been put through hell.

I suspect, the man, in a terribly lucid moment, took the only option he knew.  Let’s not call it depression.  Let’s consider it absolute clarity of thought.