All around Vancouver, at various Olympic venues, we’ve enjoyed inspiring, extraordinary human drama. Meanwhile, in the city’s Stanley Park, an all too common and tragic human drama took place, the suicide of actor Andrew Koenig.
CNN was the first to report yesterday that the body Koenig (“Growing Pains”) was found in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. In an emotional press conference, Koenig’s father, “Star Trek’s” Walter Koenig, revealed that his son had taken his own life and urged those thinking of following suit to “talk to somebody.” The lesson to be found in this tragedy, Koenig continued, was “that there are people out there who really, really care.”
When Britney Spears suffered her breakdown several years ago, I hoped that not only would the crisis and hoped-for subsequent recovery be teaching moments for a nation that often prefers a good drug addiction to admittance of a severe depression, but that it would help erode the stigma surrounding mental health issues in this country.
Andrew Koenig’s death is the ultimate,unfortunate result of struggles with severe depression through the years, but his struggle is not uncommon. The National Institute of Mental Health website notes that in 2006, suicide was the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S., a cause to which even celebrities aren’t immune. In fact, a number of celebrities–Halle Berry, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mike Wallace, to name a few (mental_floss has an extensive listing)–have come out over the years chronicling their struggles with suicidal thoughts and attempts,and many have lost the fight,
Hopefully this latest tradgedy will continue to shine a light on what the NIMH calls, ” a major, preventable public health problem.”
If you are in a crisis and need help right away: Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.