Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Marie Osmond’s Son Commits Suicide: Why Are So Many Teens Depressed?

marie osmond's son suicide teen suicide.jpgEntertainment Tonight recently reported that TV and music star Marie Osmond’s 18-year-old son, Michael Blosil, committed suicide last Friday in Los Angeles. In his suicide note, he described a life-long battle with depression, the reason for his suicide.


Osmond said Michael became depressed after she and her ex-husband, Brian Blosil, separated, and that he entered rehab in November 2007.

According to, a teen takes his or her own life every 100 minutes. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Approximately 20 percent of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood, and between 10 to 15 percent suffer from symptoms at any one time. Only 30 percent of depressed teens are being treated for it.


Some teens are more at risk for teen depression and suicide than others. Among them:

  • Teen females develop depression twice as often than men.
  • Abused and neglected teens are at risk.
  • Adolescents who suffer from chronic illnesses or other physical conditions.
  • Teens with a family history of depression or mental illness. Between 20 to 50 percent of teens suffering from depression have a family member with depression or some other mental disorder.
  • Teens with untreated mental or substance-abuse problems. Approximately two-thirds of teens with major depression also battle another mood disorder like dysthymia, anxiety, antisocial behaviors, or substance abuse.
  • Young people who experienced trauma or disruptions at home, including divorce and deaths of parents.


Some experts speculate that, after a decline in the 1990s, the number of teenage suicide began to climb again about five years ago. According to a piece in the “Kansas City Star” by Laura Bauer and Mara Rose Williams titled “‘A Very Dangerous Time’ Drives Up Teen Suicides After Years of Decline,” there is more hopelessness and helplessness among teens today. Tony Jurich, professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University, says “Teens think they are invincible, so when they feel psychological pain, they are more apt to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and the belief that they have no control over their lives.”


A new study released in January of this year, led by Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor, finds that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age who were studied in the Great Depression era. Twenge, author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” analyzed the responses of over 77,000 college students who took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory from 1938 through 2007.


Some experts say that we have raised our children with unrealistic expectations, the same message perpetually fed to us by media: we should feel good always. Some say parents haven’t taught kids the real coping skills they need in today’s turbulent world … I suspect the guys who have never had a kid puke up strained carrots on them.

In my opinion, it’s all of the above and more. 

Most experts would agree with me that there is more stress today than in previous generations. Stress triggers depression and mood disorders, so that those who are predisposed to it by their creative wiring or genes are pretty much guaranteed some symptoms of depression at the confusing and difficult time of adolescence. I think modern lifestyles–lack of community and family support, less exercise, no casual and unstructured technology-free play, less sunshine and more computer–factors into the equation. As well as our diet. Hey, I know how I feel after a lunch of processed food, and I don’t need to the help of a nutritionist to spot the effect in my eight-year-old son. Finally, let’s also throw in the toxins of our environment. Our fish are dying … a clue that our limbic systems (brain’s emotional center) are not so far behind. Maybe the same amount of people have genes that predispose them to depression as in the Great Depression. But maybe the lifestyle, toxins, and other challenges of today’s world tilts the stress scale in the favor of depression. My hypothesis for what it’s worth.


In the pages of Beyond Blue, I describe my own depression and alcohol abuse as a teenager. I could have very easily become one of the statistics–one of those deaths from teenage suicide that happens every 100 minutes. What saved me? The loving intervention of a few adults in my life at that time. They saw the red flags, such as these, warning signs of teen depression that scream “Wake up! We have a problem on our hands”:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sluggishness (less active)
  • Substance abuse
  • Spending more time alone (this includes time alone from you as parents and time away from their regular friends)
  • Decrease in desire to do things they used to like to do (sports, activities, hobbies)
  • Physical ailments (headaches, appetite problems, sleeping problems)
  • Problems in school (falling grades, getting into trouble, not paying attention in class)
  • Talking about death or suicide (never to be taken lightly)
  • Not caring about appearance
  • Running away from home

Now let’s get to the hope. According to, 80 percent of teens with depression can be successfully treated if they seek the right help. I am part of that statistic. Teen depression doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of struggle, and it certainly doesn’t have to end in suicide.


Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • Claudia Putnam

    Please consider these comments about how to discuss suicide in the media so as not to trigger suicidal behaviors (from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center):
    Also, I blogged in a much more indirect way about parental expectations and Twenge at the site linked to my name. :)

  • Claudia Putnam

    I forgot to mention–have you read Between Two Worlds, the Inner Lives of Children of Divorce? It looks at the breakdown of self that occurs when kids have to go between households. It’s interesting to consider in light of how the Osmond kid became depressed in the wake of his parents’ divorce.
    As a divorced parent, I know that sometimes this course is unavoidable, but it’s useful to understand the emotional impact on kids.

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  • kenai123

    If people really knew how far reaching divorce is within their kids they would never divorce in the first place. They somehow convince themselves that everyone will be better off when in fact only they may be better off. A solid family life gives a kid their best chance at success in this world. Divorce is all about self interest.
    In other words divorce is a selfish event Nothing is “unavoidable” in this world, nothing except for death. The “unavoidable concept” is what is causing a lot of depression. People see all that negative unavoidable stuff out there and they just say “what’s the use”, game over…

  • Your Name

    What I find baffling is that the helping professions Don’t consider the impact of 9/11 on our youth. In the NY Metro area, for instance, the rate of heroin addiction in suburbs has skyrocketed.
    I know my own children (who were teens when it occurred) dealt with it in very different ways, and not all of those were healthy.
    It seems to me, that while stressing Resiliance, we have overlooked what life is like for them. Yes to all the other triggers:
    divorce, self esteem, etc.
    But Also, Yes, we have a mental health crisis in a certain age group because their future and comfort and life as they knew it crumbled with the Towers, or with the Pentagon or in Shanksville. Chronic Stress Disorder would be what I would classify it as.
    But I’m just a Mom, not a professional, and all I have to go on is what I’ve experienced, and seen in my community. Until we deal with this, I suspect that the Suicide rate will continue to rise.
    I hope I am wrong.

  • FactsAboutCheckups

    Thanks to Therese B for an excellent post. It’s important that parents learn the signs of teen depression. Unfortunately, it’s not always enough to prevent serious illness and suicide. We need to identify at-risk teens early on, before they reach a crisis, move into alcohol or drug abuse, or begin failing in school. Parents are typically unable to recognize early warning signs, which can be subtle and unpredictable. According to the NIH, the vast majority of teens with mental health issues are never identified. At TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University, we believe in early identification — alerting parents and physicians to a possible problem so that they can address it before it develops into major illness. A simple checklist, given to teens as part of a routine checkup at the doctor’s office, can sound an early warning signal, and help prevent the tragedy of teen suicide.

  • Grace

    You have accurately noted the facts about depression. One of the tragedies of teen depression is the lact of treatment. What would be the community outcry if only 30% of cancer victims were left untreated? Of course there’s no stigma attached to cancer as there is to the spectrum of mental illnesses. Even the words “mental illness” are heard with misunderstanding ears, fear, and treatment avoidance. Parents can’t accept their children might be suffering this way; they dislike the thought of medication; they fear the stigma of “identification”. Stigma permeates our culture and leads to a denial that inhibits a search for treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), untreated depression costs the U.S. millions and millions of dollars in absenteeism and poor performance in the workforce. Untreated children with depression grow into grownups with depression. As adults they may seek treatment, or maybe not. They may suffer their entire lives, living with diminished fulfillment of dreams. We also know, according to the NIMH, that men are far less likely to seek treatment for depression, as well as other mental illnesses, either through medication, or psychotherapy. There has never been a better time to be a person with mental illness. Why? Because science has led not only to more accurate diagnosis, but to medical treatment that has never before been so advanced.

  • steven carter

    Amazingly – not single word about a spiritual component that could make the difference in a teen’s life. Until we as adults quit blaming every external thing under the sun, over which we nor our children have any control, for our feelings we will continue to see a decline in the spiritual wellness of our people. Our emotions (reactions) are the only thing we really have any control over. Teaching our children about that REALITY is one of our greatest responsibilities.

  • Your Name

    I whole heartedly disagree with your post that “only they may be better off” and that “Divorce is all about self interest” and “Divorce is a selfish event”. Obviously, unlike my daughter, you did not live in a home where domestic abuse was dished out daily to your mother and you, and you did not witness your father having sex with another woman. I was a victim of domestic abuse by my ex-husband on a daily basis for over 13 years and I stayed in the marriage for as long as I could for the sake of my daughter – until the day I walked in and saw him having a sexual act performed upon him by another woman. So, people like myself, who are victims of domestic abuse know how far reaching divorce is within their kids and we know far more than you what is best for our children. Further, divorce for me and other victims of domestic abuse was “not a selfish event” nor was it “unavoidable”. We (victimes) left for the sake of our children – because we love them, wanted to protect them and did what’s best for them. I believe that I showed my daughter that I am not “selfish” and you don’t have to live a life like I was living – I don’t want her to think that that is what marriage is about and my mother lived it I can. My daughter has been in counseling for over 2 years and is doing good – she has a good counselor and she has my support.

  • Artie

    I thought this article was right on the money. I think EVERYONE nowadays is being subjected to increasingly high levels of stress. This is largely attributable to today’s media and this age of instant information. Teenagers in particular are very vulnerable to the distorted, unrealistic and often totally irresponsible messages and images they are being exposed to on a daily basis. Important values have been left in the dust bin. It’s only important to be attractive and make tons of money. It is very easy to become overwhelmed and depressed if you can’t live up to what is mostly unrealistic standards being foisted on kids and everyone else these days.

  • Your Name

    I was once a teenager suffering from deep depression/bipolar and I can relate to some of the teens on here when it came to parents divorcing, parents dying or even seperating. I didn’t know what to think of my parents then when they were fighting in front of me or even argueing. I wanted to just run away and never be found. I did one time run away for three days and ended up downtown. I thought people were going to get for sure and wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep of it. Im 26 now and I live at board and Care Home now, Im in college now and loving it. So inconcluding this all Im am saying to all teens out there HANG IN THERE!!!

  • Megan!

    How inspiring!
    If you are depressed and reading this, please know in your heart and soul you CAN be happy. It is possible. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t your fault, if someone is teasing you or if you were born with a chemical imbalance. If you want to conquer this YOU have to take the action. You have the power. It only takes one inspired person to inspire a whole WORLD of people. As someone with free will, at least free power of thought, you have more power than you could ever imagine.

  • Ilumina

    kenai123 I do NOT believe divorce is a selfish act. I grew up in a very abusive household, with both parents being addicts and extremely abusive towards each other and their children. I wished many times a day that my parents would get divorced. I would have much preferred my parents be separated and happier and less co-dependent, than together in an abusive situation. Unfortunately, they’re still together, still just as abusive as always and still just as addicted to alcohol and substances as before.
    I have seen the effect that parents divorcing has had on close friends of mine and they ALL agree that they would prefer their parents to divorce than stay together in an abusive or unhappy situation. Divorce can be hard, but it’s often the better choice.
    If my parents had separated, maybe I wouldn’t have been so depressed during my teen years and I wouldn’t still be in therapy years later and I wouldn’t have had every psychiatric treatment for depression under the sun with no positive results. My depression is all about trauma and I believe if my parents had divorced at least part of that trauma would have subsided or been avoided.

  • No Name

    I totally agree with the article. It doesn’t matter as far as divorce goes. My daughter had a great dad in her life not her bio from the age of a little over the age of 1 and then at 12 my 2nd husband who I am speaking of I left after a nervous breakdown from depression/Bipolar a lot had to do with her mulipulation of me believing her over what my husband had to say about what was going on. At the time before my hospitalization I was working 60 or more hours a week on call every weekend ect. Also at that time her bio dad decided to wanted to finally become a part of her life but only after I went through the worst suffering a parent could endure, she was abusive to me, told me she wanted to kill herself and of we went to therapy and finally I did the hardest thing in my life and that was to put her in the hospital as any parent would do after her team advised me to do it. Then I took her out of that one and put her in a better one, due to the fact she was on the border line of the age of which unit to be on and they put her with the older kids. not ever being in there one child or teen was getting a pass out and threatened in a session to bring back a gun and kill everyone. The second was the best around in my area and finally dx her not only with severe depression but questioned a personility disorder/ Bipolar. She is now almost 17 went to live with her dad a few years back and I found out she was substance abusing but only after she went to the courts to be on her own and was granted it..problem she isn’t she lives with a friend works a little gets food stamps and over 500.00 a month from be being on Disablility. Now I see a very angry uncaring cself centered child claiming she is an adult. I am afraid that she is pushing it all down and turning it into anger. POINT here is she is mentally ill whether she wants to admit it or not and I feel she is going to completly let go one day and either do the worst or hurt herself in other ways. PLEASE ANYONE, Therse help me to understand what I can do even though most of the time I am the one she takes it out on when she comes to visit…I feel so helpless she has even told me she is going to have all those records removed and I better not try to stop it!!!
    God Bless you Therse and your family and your fellow bloggers

  • Amber

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey. A 2009 study, “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes” led by Dr. Caitlin Ryan and conducted as part of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, shows that adolescence who were rejected by their families for being LGBT were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide. And for every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made (2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey).

  • Alexis

    I’m 14 and have been suffering from severe depression since I was 12. I’ve attempted suicide more than 4 times but have failed. I already know how I would kill myself next, but there is just one person I am in love with that keeps me going. If he wasn’t around, more than likely, I’d be dead. I don’t want to play softball anymore, I’ve stopped being around “friends” and I’m always angry at my family. No one in my “home” cares about my feelings which makes it worse. My mom supposivley has depression and she always makes a big deal about it and tries to portray herself as a victum and wants everyone to feel sorry for her. I don’t. My doctor told her I was depressed and suggested counseling. I told her my mom would agree to it, though it would never happen. I was right. I have most of these symptoms but my mom doesn’t care. I know if I was gone they’d be so much happier. They wouldn’t struggle with bills and stuff but I don’t want to die yet. I want to live my life, but it’s hard knowing you’re not wanted. I’m so wack, I’m crying ha. Anyways, this article was great. Sorry about how long this was, I tend to blab a lot about a bunch of nothing. Take care

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