Robin Williams’ death highlights the link between Parkinson’s disease and depression

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HOUSTON, TX - It took the loss of the world's funniest person for many of us to realize just how serious the issue of depression can be.   For one thing, Robin Williams' suicide has shed light on the existing link between Parkinson's disease and depression.

"What people need to understand is that depression and Parkinson's disease both affect the brain," says Dr. Prashant Gajwani, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas at Houston.

The connection is not necessary biological, but understandably, people could just get depressed when they learn they have Parkinson's.  Although, research also suggests a chemical imbalance in the brain could be the cause of both afflictions.

"There's certain neurochemicals that are involved in both the diseases that have shared common pathways such as serotonin and dopamine,"  explains Dr. Gajwani.   "So, what happens is people who get Parkinson's disease are at a higher risk for getting depressed."

Over the course of this week, the number of people calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline doubled.  Whether it is due to the phenomenon known as "suicide contagion" or because more information has become available, is not clear.  But one thing is for sure, there's plenty of help out there available for people in distress.

Dr. Gajwani concludes, "The combination of psychotherapy and medication is usually the best course forward for helping a loved-one who's got depressive symptoms."