TV

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Family, friends struggle to understand why Robin Williams hanged himself

  • Print

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - Although police have now revealed how Robin Williams killed himself, the Oscar-winning actor's fans, friends and even family continue to struggle to understand why someone who spread so much joy throughout the world could find so little in his own life that he decided to stop living.

Williams, who made no secret of his decades-long struggles with depression and substance abuse, killed himself by fashioning a noose out of a belt and hanging himself, authorities said Tuesday.

The frenetic funnyman who starred in such films as "Mrs. Doubtfire," ''Good Will Hunting" and "Good Morning, Vietnam," had announced only last month that he was re-entering a 12-step program to get his life back on track after months of nonstop work. His publicist confirmed after he died that he had been suffering in recent weeks from a serious case of depression.

Still, even family members were caught off-guard when his body was found in his San Francisco Bay Area home Monday morning.

"I'll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay," his 25-year-old daughter, Zelda Williams, said in a poignant statement released Tuesday.

"He was always warm, even in his darkest moments," she noted, adding she last saw her father when he recently celebrated his 63rd birthday. It was a day, Williams recalled, that she and her two brothers spent "sharing gifts and laughter" with their father.

Marin County Sheriff's Lt. Keith Boyd said Williams was last seen alive by his wife, Susan Schneider, who went to bed around 10 p.m. Sunday. She awoke the next morning and left the couple's Tiburon home, thinking he was asleep somewhere else in the house.

When Williams didn't answer a knock on the door a short time later, his personal assistant found him dead in a bedroom. A pocketknife was nearby and Williams also had superficial cuts on his wrists.

Boyd said all evidence indicates the actor committed suicide by hanging himself. A final ruling will be announced after toxicology reports and interviews with witnesses are complete.

The lieutenant declined to say if a suicide note was found.

"We still have people we want to speak with so there is some information we're going to withhold," he said.

Like Williams' family members, fellow actors and comedians were devastated by the news.

"I never could have expected this ending to his life and to ours with him," said Chevy Chase who noted that he, too, suffers from depression.

But, Chase added, "I cannot believe this. I am overwhelmed with grief."

The circumstances of the death do not help explain what motivated Williams, suicide experts said. Understanding that would require a detailed "psychological autopsy" that includes the review of medical and other records, and interviews with family and friends.

These experts stressed that suicide rarely is triggered by a single factor, such as depression or substance abuse. Typically there are at least two such influences, often compounded by acute stress, such as from financial hardship or troubled personal relationships.

"We know from decades of research that there are numerous factors that contribute to suicide risk," said Michelle Cornette, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology.

Word that the actor had killed himself also left neighbours stunned and grief-stricken in the quiet, waterfront neighbourhood of Tiburon, where Williams was a popular figure.

"I'm shocked. I loved him. I loved his sense of humour. I loved the spontaneity of his life," neighbour Johanna Dunning said of Williams, who was often seen riding his bicycle through the neighbourhood or stopping to joke with kids.

Makeshift memorials of flowers and notes popped up around the country including on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at his home and outside the house in Boulder, Colorado, where the sitcom "Mork & Mindy" was set.

People also gathered to remember Williams at a bench in Boston's Public Garden where he filmed a scene for "Good Will Hunting," the film that won him an Academy Award.

Ben Affleck, a co-star and co-writer on that movie, was among the legions of friends and fans who shared tributes online.

"Robin had a ton of love & did so much for so many. He made Matt & my dreams come true," Affleck said of himself and fellow co-star and co-writer Matt Damon.

"What do you owe a guy who does that?" Affleck asked on Twitter. "Everything."

Williams' family asked that his fans remember him as the kind-hearted man that he was.

"Yesterday, I lost my father and a best friend and the world got a little greyer," his son Zak Williams said in a statement. "I will carry his heart with me every day. I would ask those that loved him to remember him by being as gentle, kind, and generous as he would be. Seek to bring joy to the world as he sought."

___

Associated Press writer Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Robin Williams - Iconic roles

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Bartley Kives on 5 obstacles for new mayor and city council

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Aerial view of Portage and Main, The Esplanade Riel, Provencher Bridge over the Red River, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and The Forks near the Assiniboine River, October 21st, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) CMHR

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Has the attack on Parliament hill shaken your faith in Canada's ability to protect its citizens from terrorist threats?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google