Comedian and actor Robin Williams died Monday at the age of 63.
The Marin County Sheriff’s Department issued a press release calling the death a suspected “suicide due to asphyxia.” Williams’ press representative Mara Buxbaum wrote in a release, “He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss.”
“It’s almost unimaginable how someone who seems to have so much joy in his life, how he brings so much joy to others, could be in a state of misery,” Dr. Drew told CNN’s Don Lemon. “This is the problem with depression.”
Williams has struggled with addiction for decades. The actor quit using alcohol and cocaine cold turkey in 1982, crediting fatherhood and the tragic death of friend, John Belushi, for making the life change.
Unfortunately, Williams fell off the wagon after 20 years of sobriety and entered rehab for alcohol addiction in 2006. “It’s a brain disease,” explains Dr. Drew. “Someone who had long periods of sobriety, struggling with a relapse that can often result in severe depression.”
Just last month, the "Good Will Hunting" actor made headlines again for entering rehab, but this time was different. Williams checked himself into treatment, not because of a relapse, but to maintain his long-term sobriety goals. “After working back-to-back projects, Robin is simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud,” his rep told CNN at the time.
“You have to wonder what other contributing factors there might have been,” said Dr. Drew. “Alcoholism is certainly one. He may have had genetic potential for depression. He also had cardiac surgery. Just having cardiac disease and cardiac surgery can put people at risk for depression that is very difficult to treat.” Williams underwent heart surgery in March 2009.
His wife, Susan Schneider, had this to say about her husband's death: “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
“It’s so hard to talk about this because, you know, we all love this guy so much. We all have some favorite character he played, some favorite bit he did, he’s been a part of every one of our lives. There is no one that is not going to be affected by this,” says Dr. Drew. “There is a message here, that we hopefully have to take away, which is that addiction and depression are both potentially fatal illnesses.”
“I was just thinking to myself how many celebrities we have to deal with now that die of mental health-related conditions,” stresses Dr. Drew. “It is a really important thing to remind ourselves that these are medical conditions that are serious and if anyone has a loved one or they themselves are struggling with this sort of thing, please take advantage of treatment and stay with it.”