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Suicide and the Children of Celebrities

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Today we heard the devastating news of the suicide death of Michael Blosil, the 18-year-old son of Marie Osmond and Brian Blosil.

marie osmond

Dr. Michelle Golland: It was only a few days ago that 42-year-old Andrew Koenig son of actor Walter Koenig (of "Star Trek" fame), was also found dead as the result of suicide. The fact that these two suicides were the children of celebrities is, in my opinion, not coincidental. The two things are clearly related.

Both of these men had apparently been struggling with depression for some time. The children of celebrities face a unique emotional challenge that can often lead to depression -- as well as to drug and alcohol abuse. These kids typically become anxious and depressed as the result of living in the shadow of their celebrity parent's spotlight. They feel as though they will never measure up to their parent's success.

Although the need to match our parents' success is common to most children, the children of celebrities can feel that modest success is a great disappointment. Even what would normally be considered a high level of success can be viewed in a dim light when compared to the bright light of the celebrity parent. This results in the child struggling tremendously to develop his or her own identity and find a true sense of self.

Whether the children follow in their parent's footsteps (like Andrew Koenig did) or try to strike out on their own path (as in the case of Michael Blosil), they always carry with them the legacy of their parent's fame. Michael seems to have been struggling since early adolescence. Apparently he left a note explaining that he intended to commit suicide due to his lifelong battle with depression and his feeling that he had no friends and could never fit in. His depression was surely compounded by the fact that his famous family had such a squeaky-clean image.

An additional challenge for Michael was the fact that his mother, Marie Osmond, was also battling depression. Studies show that the children of depressive mothers have higher rates of depression themselves. It's unclear whether depression is genetic (Michael was adopted) or learned (as a coping skill of sorts). In any case, growing up in a home with a depressed parent can complicate one's childhood enough to create issues that can lead to major depression, even without the added pressures that the parent's celebrity status brings.

Neither Marie Osmond nor Walter Koenig should feel as though they are to blame for their child's condition or their horrible act. When a person takes his or her own life, he or she is making a choice that sometimes couldn't have been thwarted with the best care or effort. The parents should not bear this burden. What we can and should learn from this is that we as parents -- and as a society -- need to be more mindful of the challenges that the children of celebrities face. Perhaps a little more compassion and open discussion can help prevent further family tragedies. Nothing is as devastating to a parent as a child's suicide.

If someone you love exhibits one or more of these signs of depression, seek help for them immediately:

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
  • Decreased interest in activities, or an inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
  • Hopelessness
  • Persistent boredom, low energy
  • Social isolation, poor communication
  • Low self-esteem, guilt
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Increased irritability, anger or hostility
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Frequent absences from school, or poor performance in school
  • Poor concentration
  • A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior
marie osmond

Marie Osmond




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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Samantha February 28, 2010, 6:57 AM

Interesting but I think that saying just because they are the children of celebrities makes them more at risk is ridiculous. These are typically children that have the best life can offer and don’t understand the concept of going without, I think this leads to boredom as they have nothing to really look forward to, they are often indulged and have the opportunities to experience things most people just wish to, this leads to boredom. As far as living up to their latger than life parents, come now they are really people just like you or me that have a publicist saying oohh they’re special so people buy into it and then it becomes so, how very sad. I think some people are more given to depression than others and also everyone experiences depression at some time in their lives they just deal with it better. I am sorry for these families and my heart goes out to them but I’m sure if you researched a little you would find that there were many children/young adult suicides this week and they had nothing to do with the fact that their parents were celebrities, oh wait thats right its not sensational enough so we won’t ever know about it!

Anonymous February 28, 2010, 10:34 AM

It’s pretty sad that the children of celebrities who commit suicide can’t look around them and realize how truly wonderful their life is compared to 99% of people. They’ll almost never have to face true financial strife - they have so many more opportunities than the rest of us. Yet they’re upset that they can’t become world famous? Join the club, guys. Just because your mom or dad is famous doesn’t mean you’re entitled to success or that you should give up hope on life.

Darryl March 1, 2010, 10:59 AM

It’s easy to generalize about “children of celebrities” or “child actors,” but this was written by someone who obviously has no clue what Andrew was all about, or what his life was like, or what he was like.

Depression is an equal opportunity killer. It just doesn’t make national news unless it happens to a celebrity or in the family of one.

Terry March 2, 2010, 1:13 AM

I’m very sorry for her loss..but sometimes the person doesn’t let you in on what’s really going on inside..how I know is because I’m one of those people. They look for someone to trust and you find out you cant trust them..So what do you do? Go to the only one you can TRUST GOD, but that’s the wrong way!!!!I the word and that is a Sin…I’m sorry, but that’s what the Bible Says…I’m having problems to wondering if my favorite uncle is in Heaven because I was told he kill himself,but I can’t beleive today…May God Bless You And Your Family…..TRM

Joy Smith March 2, 2010, 7:10 AM

Does that mean I’m a celebrity too because depression runs in my family? I don’t think so. What it does mean is people still do not recognize bi-polar (which Andrew’s father told the media was the cause of Andrew’s death), as a disease. Just because a celebrity’s family member is suicidal does not mean it’s because their parents are famous. There are a lot of family’s who’s children are depressed that are not famous, yet we don’t hear about them because they’re not celebrities. Bi-Polar is real. It’s a disease that is hereditary. It’s not something that can be helped with just a DON’T DO IT!

Pep March 2, 2010, 7:15 AM

I couldn’t have said it better Samantha. These kids are used to having EVERYTHING handed to them on a silver platter and when they go out in the real world and see that the world does not revolve around them, they panic.
Celebrities need to try and raise their kids as normal as possible and maybe even stay out of the spotlight occasionally, like staying home and raising these kids ‘themselves’ instead of a nanny. I don’t understand how they even know their own children when they are never home to raise them. I do fell for Marie because no one should have to experience this kind of thing. But there are many regular folk out there that have to deal with this kind of pain also. We hear about all the time.

Marina March 2, 2010, 7:43 AM

It was very sad to hear about the suicide death of Marie Osmand’s son, Michael. Another life gone too soon. I have something to say about this and I don’t mean anything bad by it. In this case, here are my thoughts: Last night on a talk show they spoke about all of Marie Osmond’s tragic events. Her parents passed away, first her mother then her father. He was an older gentleman who probably had a long a happy life. Marie said she prepared her mother for the funeral.(Who does that!) Anyway, we all lose our parents eventually, it is the circle of life. We usually want to pass before our children though. Then, she had a fire at her house. She had two failed marriages. Her youngest daughter had a seizure and stopped breathing, according to Marie. First of all, these life events happen to everyone. My mother died of cancer, I was by her side. My father died of an aneurysm, I wss not there. I have been married twice and divorced twice. Sometimes, when little children have a high fever, it can bring on a seizure. Did Marie even know her child had a fever? Marie tells everyone on TV she suffers from depression. Why? She has a huge baby doll business making tons of money. She is a spokesperson for a diet company, again making money. She “Danced with the Stars” and she performs almost everynight with her brother in Las Vegas? Maybe, if she were at home more and more involved with her children, she might have seen the warning signs. It seems that when Marie lost weight, her self-esteem returned and she was living her life exactly the way she wanted. She spoke on TV about Michael and rehab. Maybe he didn’t want the world to know. He was always in the background in family pictures. Marie said he liked it that way. She needs to give up something and spend more quality time with her children. I am sure her financial situation if good enough to give up one of her livlihoods. Through the years, she appeared to be a bit phony. I am not trying to be mean. I just think she needs to take a step back, and reflect, and ask herself what if more important. Being a celebrity or a mom. Sometimes, you just can’t have both. Again, I am very sorry about her loss and my thoughts are with her and her family.

Jan Andersen March 3, 2010, 2:56 AM

This doesn’t just happen to celebrities’ children. Sadly, it happens to “normal”, everyday families, but is not as widely reported as when it happens to a famous family. Depression and suicide is so misunderstood and is not necessarily related to one’s lifestyle or social circumstances.

My heart goes out to Marie and her family. Trying to express the pain of losing a child to suicide is almost impossible, because there are no words in the English language that adequately convey the devastation. Speaking out about this issue and helping to reduce the stigma of suicide is so important. This is something I have also been determined to do since losing my eldest son to suicide in November 2002. People can be so judgemental and yet it really can happen to any family. Jan Andersen, Author of Chasing Death: Losing a Child to Suicide.


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