Live updates:

Robin Williams had early stage Parkinson's: wife

AFP
US actor Robin Williams arrives for the European premiere of "Happy Feet Two" in central London, November 20, 2011
.

View gallery

Los Angeles (AFP) - Hollywood actor Robin Williams, found dead this week after an apparent suicide, was suffering from depression and the early stages of Parkinson's disease, his wife said.

The beloved comedian's personal assistant found Williams hanging from his belt in a bedroom of his California home on Monday, sparking speculation about his long public battle with addiction.

But Susan Schneider, issuing a statement through an agency on Thursday, said the 63-year-old's most recent problems had been with his mental health and with Parkinson's, a degenerative nerve disorder.

"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," she said.

"Robin's sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson's Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly."

The coroner of Marin County, outside San Francisco, has opened an inquiry into the death, but has confirmed it as a suspected suicide, pending toxicology reports.

"Robin spent so much of his life helping others," Schneider said.

"Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the frontlines or comforting a sick child -- Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid.

"His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles," she added.

- A neurological disease -

Parkinson's is a disease that affects nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement, causing tremors and muscle rigidity, as well as problems with balance and coordination.

Researchers are still trying to unravel the causes of the disease, which shows up more often in men than women. There is no cure -- though there are treatments available to mitigate the symptoms.

Typically, the disorder first appears after age 60, though in rare cases onset can be sooner -- as was the case for actor Michael J. Fox, who has become an outspoken advocate for Parkinson's awareness, and was diagnosed in 1991 at age 30.

Fox went public with his diagnosis in 1998 and slowed his work load.

However, he has continued to take on television and film roles, including "The Michael J. Fox Show," for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe this year.

Former boxing champion Muhammad Ali also famously suffers from Parkinson's Disease, and in recent appearances has been visibly disabled by the symptoms, including difficulty speaking.

- 'Friend like me' -

Williams, an Oscar-winner and veteran of movies, stand-up shows and hit television series, was one of Hollywood's most popular entertainers and his death triggered an outpouring of emotion.

In one moving tribute, the cast of the Broadway version of "Aladdin" led the audience in a sing-along rendition of "Friend Like Me," a song Williams made famous in his scene-stealing portrayal of the Genie in the Disney film version.

And actor Pierce Brosnan, who met Williams on the set of "Mrs Doubtfire," expressed heartbreak over the apparent suicide.

"It really has cut deep into our hearts that he is gone and that he suffered in such pain, and said, 'enough, enough,'" the Irish actor said at a movie premiere in Hollywood on Wednesday.

"World of Warcraft" said Williams, who was an avid gamer, would be honored as a character in the popular video game.

"We haven't decided, but it will most likely be a character inspired by him or some of his favorite roles of the past," lead game designer Ion Hazzikostas was cited by local media as saying during a Los Angeles event unveiling the game's fifth edition, "World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor."

View Comments (159)