Everyone will forever recognize that face: broad, angular, and always smiling. Although his face was iconic, it was eclipsed by the plethora of comedic voices for which he was known. Many fondly remember Mrs. Doubtfire from more than twenty years ago, which showcased the breadth of characters this great actor could evoke, from the cartoon bird he voiced in the film’s opening sequence to Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, a character that he somehow still played with depth despite the silly premise. Although known as a comedian, this was a versatile, talented man whose charisma also translated to many other genres, including thriller with Insomnia and One Hour Photo and his acclaimed dramatic roles such as in What Dreams May Come and Awakenings.
On August 11, 2014, Robin Williams was found dead in his home in Paradise Cay, California. According to reports, Williams had hung himself with a belt and, therefore, died of asphyxiation; moreover, autopsy and toxicology reports have ruled out the possibility of intoxication due to alcohol or drugs having been the catalyst that trigger Williams’ suicide as the only medications found in his system were prescribed to him and all at therapeutic levels. However, in the aftermath of this pop culture icon’s death we would learn more about this actor and his state of mental unwellness. A new picture has been painted of Robin Williams, portraying the comedian as fighting an ongoing battle against the compulsion to relapse and using entertainment and laughter to cover up a very deep depression.
A Legacy of Laughter: Remembering Robin Williams
Robin Williams began his impressive career in the stand-up comedy circuits of the 1970s and 1980s. He quickly garnered much critical acclaim for his performances, which were sometimes described as intense while always inducing riotous laughter in his audiences. A number of Williams’ live performances were recorded and released as spoken comedy albums, which resulted in his receiving a Grammy Award for his 1979 show at the Copacabana. As he gained more and more momentum, Williams landed a bit role on Happy Days in 1978 as the alien Mork, which was so well-received that it launched his acting career with the spin-off show Mork & Mindy, running from 1978 to 1982 and saw Williams becoming a household name.
In the wake of his Mork & Mindy success, Williams’ stand-up comedy was broadcasted to much wider audiences with specials on big networks like HBO. Over the years, Williams has made a number of unexpected cameo appearances on shows like Friends and, more recently, Wilfred, but Mork & Mindy was his longest television role with his film career bringing him much of his current renown and fame. Williams’ first major film appearance was as the titular character in Popeye, released in 1980. Though the film was commercially unsuccessful, it showcased Williams’ skill as a character actor and resulted in a number of smaller roles before he got an Academy Award nomination for his role in 1987’s Good Morning, Vietnam.
By the 1990s, much of Williams’ film career consisted of comedic roles with a hint of poignancy or melodrama. Dead Poets Society, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, Bicentennial Man, and Good Will Hunting are 90s films that all saw Williams in a very distinct role with which he would often be associated for the rest of his life. One might call the 1990s the “Robin Williams Era” due to the sheer volume of successful roles he played during that time, including his voice acting in animated films like Aladdin. Much of his more recent work pales to many previous roles although he remained an acclaimed actor for the entirety of his career. With popular roles in the Night at the Museum series and four films in production at the time of his death in 2014, Robin Williams has been a staple in the entertainment industry since his star rose in the late 1970s.
Struggles with Addiction Made Very Public
Throughout his career, Robin Williams has spoken candidly about his struggles with addiction. Even used as material for his stand-up comedy, Williams admitted having been a frequent alcohol and drug abuse while performing in the stand-up comedy circuits. Cocaine and alcohol were Williams’ drugs of choice with the former making him paranoid much of the time, even when not actively under the influence.
After the death of close friend John Belushi and the birth of his son, Williams decided to turn his life back around by overcoming his addictions and getting the necessary treatment for his depression. Part of his wellness regimen included regular exercise with Williams developing a special fondness for bicycling. Although he was abstinent from drugs for the remainder of his life, Williams admitted that alcoholism remained an ongoing struggle for him and resulted in his alcohol relapse in the early 2000s, which he spoke openly about on several occasions.
Mental Illness & Suicide
Over the course of his life, Robin Williams was perpetually associated with laughter. Between his stand-up comedy and plethora of comedic film roles, audiences in need of a good laugh knew they could simply put on a Robin Williams movie to cure what ailed them. However, since his apparent suicide the portrayal of Robin Williams—at least off-camera—has been much bleaker and grimmer. In hindsight, it would seem that the signs have been there for years.
Sadly, Williams is reported to have suffered from a severe case of depression. Those who have trouble reconciling depression with the happy character actor they remember can simply reference one of his many interviews; time and again, Williams’ demeanor was described as being very solemn with his baritone voice almost trembling as if he was on the edge of tears while his trademark personas—energetic and manic, unpredictable, cycling through a number of accents, voices, and impression—was something he conveyed only when he was in front of the camera.
Moreover, the man known for his articulate comedic has become almost incomprehensible in casual conversation, exhibiting disjointed and chaotic thoughts that seemed unable to translate into intelligible speech. Many attributed his mental deterioration in recent years to his relapse back into alcoholism and subsequent stint in rehab in 2006, noting that the sharp man seemed noticeably dulled after that. In the autopsy, it was discovered that Williams not only suffered from severe depression, addiction, and alcoholism but was also suffering from a form of dementia called Lewy body dementia (LBD), a condition closely associated with Parkinson’s disease. However, in the aftermath of his death, it was revealed that Williams had recently been diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s disease but was not ready to make the diagnosis public. Although he was receiving treatment for his known afflictions, many experts believe that the depression coupled with Lewy body dementia are what led to Williams’ decision to commit suicide.
Robin Williams was a complex and beloved individual who was a comedian and an accomplished actor as well as a dual-diagnosis patient, suffering from depression, dementia, drug addiction, and alcoholism. In the years since his death, many of Williams’ fans are still in disbelief while his family continues to grieve and heal.
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If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction or a mental health disorder, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. There are many resources for those with depression as well as addiction treatment programs to help individuals return to a state of health and wellness. Drug Treatment Center Finder can match those suffering from addiction or a dual-diagnosis with the addiction treatment programs that best address their recovery needs. Call today to speak with one of our experienced recovery specialists and begin the journey to a better life.