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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Surviving Suicide of Loved One
Aired December 22, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOAN RIVERS, GUEST HOST: How do you go on after the suicide of a loved one, a husband, a father, a daughter, a sister, a grandfather? We'll ask Art Linkletter, the broadcasting legend whose daughter Diane took her own life; my daughter Melissa Rivers, her father, my husband Edgar Rosenberg killed himself; Mariel Hemingway, her legendary grandfather, author Ernest Hemingway and her sister Margaux committed suicide; and country star Mindy McCready who has attempted suicide twice in the past year all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
J. RIVERS: Hello and thank you for joining us. Larry is obviously off. I'm lucky enough to be sitting here. I'm Joan Rivers.
I don't know if you know this (AUDIO GAP) people each year in the United States commit suicide. That's one every 18 minutes. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is tough. Dealing with it during the holidays is so, so, so difficult and especially when that loss is a family member or a very good friend.
Well, the sense of loss can be a killer, as we know, and as I know personally from personal experience but talking about it and sharing the pain that comes to people because of suicide, being honest about it can help a great deal and that's what all of us have banded together to do tonight, so thank you for joining us.
And now, let me introduce again who we have if I may. We have first Art Linkletter. We all grew up with Art Linkletter. Even I grew up with Art Linkletter.
ART LINKLETTER: Really?
J. RIVERS: People are Funny, House Party, author of dozens of books, "Kids Say the Darndest Things" and there's always a flipside to everybody's life. Unfortunately his teenage daughter Diane committed suicide and then his son Robert at the age of 31 was killed tragically in a car accident, tough, tough, tough.
My daughter Melissa Rivers is with us tonight. She's a television personality, co-star on TV Guide's Red Carpet shows, just did her own pilot. Her father, my husband killed himself when Melissa was 16 and Melissa got the call, had to tell her mother, cute huh?
Mariel Hemingway, gorgeous, model, coming from a literary family, glamorous, the Hemingway legacy, what we don't know also about the Hemingway legacy five of them committed suicide, her grandfather Ernest and her sister Margaux. Try living with those things, those facts.
And, two psychologists to help us along, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison and Dr. Robi Ludwig, so we're going to have lots of questions to ask them all and hear lots of stories and we'd like you all to call in and speak to us if you have comments or questions for any of us.
If I could go first let's start with Dr. Jamison, it's holiday season. Everybody is so happy and so up and yet there's so much depression around. People also come up to me and say "I'm so down. I'm so blue I could kill myself." Are more suicides happening in the dark periods of holidays than anyplace else in the world?
DR. KAY REDFIELD JAMISON, PROF. PSYCHIATRY: No, actually on the contrary, there are far fewer suicides in the winter months. It's sort of counterintuitive given how much emphasis the papers put on depression during the holidays.
In fact, many people actually really enjoy the holidays. It's just that a lot of people don't and being quite unhappy is quite different from being depressed and I think the important thing is to do exactly what you're doing which is being honest about when, you know, devastating things happen including suicide, which is among the worst to be able to talk about it and to learn from it.
J. RIVERS: Art Linkletter, your daughter, and tell us a little bit about it, Diane, it was 1965 when she killed herself?
LINKLETTER: Sixty-four, yes.
J. RIVERS: Sixty-four. Does it get easier? Let me just start with that because I've had 17 years of anger and tears. Does it get easier? Has it gotten easier?
LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. Nature has a wonderful way and time does a lot of healing but, of course, at first you have when you hear about it it's a shock that panics you and sanity leaves your life and you can't understand what's happened and then you begin to blame yourself and look at if only I had, all the kinds of self examination and then comes the terrible, dull feeling that it really happened. You're angry at God even though he had nothing to do with it.
But all these things happen at once and it's so hard to explain but then reality sets in. If you have a family, you know that you can't just give up everything and mourn and be a person who brings gloom to the whole family. You have a job to do with other children. We had four other children at the time.
And also, I had a great good friend named Dr. Norman Vincent Peale who called me from New York City after he'd heard about Diane's death and he said to me, "Art, a minister has a difficult time trying to explain to somebody in his flock or among his friends when something like this happens why a wonderful, giving and friendly and loving God could let this happen. But in your case, I can visualize that perhaps the Lord has a new plan for your life.
J. RIVERS: Melissa...
LINKLETTER: You have been talking to families for years with children. People believe you and they need to know that drug epidemics are now settling into the minds of children and you can do something.
J. RIVERS: Now you're talking -- you're talking, Art, about a daughter's death. The reverse happened to Melissa Rivers, my daughter. She got the call that her father had committed suicide. What was your reaction? Did you have any idea?
MELISSA RIVERS, FATHER EDGAR ROSENBERG COMMITTED SUICIDE IN 1987: My first reaction was complete and total disbelief. Then the thought of getting to you because we were not in the same place before someone else did so that sort of became the pressing moment for me.
I remember you were at the end of a very long hallway and it was like a very sort of Hitchcockian moment when I say you walking out of a door and it was one of those moments where you feel like you're running but the hallway keeps stretching. And, it became very much sort of a suspension of disbelief. It became -- you know in hindsight it was incredibly surreal.
J. RIVERS: Surreal.
M. RIVERS: It wasn't happening. I was watching myself go through the motions. It was almost a physical disconnect for me.
J. RIVERS: Mariel, let me ask you five suicides in your family does this terrify you because it's no longer an idea. It's a reality that your children will live with as an option.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY, GRANDFATHER ERNEST, SISTER MARGAUX BOTH COMMITTED SUICIDE: Well, I think that we have, I mean I have sort of orchestrated my life. I want to go to your daughter expressing how she was dealing with the suicide.
When my sister committed suicide we were told initially that it wasn't suicide and we held onto that belief. It was announced later to us and in the press that it was a suicide and I think as a family we went into denial because I think the pain of that suicide is so traumatic and because my father had come from so much suicide.
His mother's father committed suicide, his great uncle, his father, you know, so many suicides in the family that for us and for me it was about trying to keep it at bay, really went into denial.
And there was an event that you and I were both kind of hosting and speaking at two years ago, the American Association for the Prevention of Suicide, and I admitted that it was suicide two years ago.
And, it was a surreal moment but it was a moment that I needed to come to terms with because I think it does have a powerful effect on a family and the effect that it has on you is so devastating and it has been a great, a tremendous fear in my life as a mother that I might be passing on this genetic sort of curse is what people call it in regard to my family and that's been terrifying for me.
So, I deal with it in a holistic way by living my life very, very well and eating properly and exercising and doing these kinds of things as a preventative measure and trying to teach my children that but it is a frightening, frightening thing.
J. RIVERS: Dr. Robi Ludwig when we came to you is you were nodding your head at that.
DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PSY.D., PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Yes because it is scary and this can run in families but I think Mariel's approach is wonderful that you talk about it and you deal with it straight on because in talking about it you really help family members look at other options that are available to them and seek treatment early on because there are so many things that we can do to help a person not go that route. So, that's the good news and we're even learning more so that perhaps in the future we get better at predicting who's most vulnerable to going and suiciding.
J. RIVERS: We're going to talk about that.
HEMINGWAY: I think what you're...
J. RIVERS: We're going to take a break guys. Hold it and we'll be right back.
J. RIVERS: That's OK. We'll be right back. There are so many questions and so many answers I hope coming forth in a few minutes. Stay with us.
J. RIVERS: Joan Rivers back again thanks to Larry King talking about suicide.
I have a list of just some celebrities who have had suicide. No one talks about suicide in their families. This is just partial. Mariette Hartley's father killed himself. Gloria Vanderbilt's son Carter killed himself. Courtney Love's husband Kurt Cobain killed himself. Actor David Spade's stepfather killed himself.
CNN Founder Ted Turner's father committed suicide. Author Danielle Steele's son killed himself. Patrick Swayze's sister committed suicide. Willie Nelson's son killed himself. Judy Collins' son took his own life. It goes on and on and on, amazing, amazing because it's been kept so in the clouds. Art, did you realize...
M. RIVERS: I have a question...
J. RIVERS: ...that your daughter was in such bad shape that this could happen?
J. RIVERS: Or were you totally in the dark?
LINKLETTER: (INAUDIBLE) talking to a friend of mine here. What did you say?
J. RIVERS: Did you realize that your daughter was in such bad shape or were you totally in the dark when this happened?
LINKLETTER: Totally in the dark. It was like a bolt of lightning. I was at the Colorado Springs getting ready to do a speech for the commencement exercises at the Air Force and the phone rang in my apartment and my lawyer said, "Your daughter has just leaped from her apartment building under the influence of LSD and died."
And, I couldn't believe it. One moment the world was sane and the next moment everything was out of confusion. And, of course, as your daughter has said, the first thing you do is to deny it.
You say it can't be happening. It's a dream. Somebody is playing a terrible joke. She couldn't possibly. She was happy. She was bright. She was beautiful. She was the baby of the family of five. And then out of the sky came this bolt that she was dead, gone, and this is the pain that nobody can possibly understand unless they've been through it.
J. RIVERS: Mariel...
M. RIVERS: Can I ask...
J. RIVERS: Go ahead Melissa.
M. RIVERS: Can I ask a question?
J. RIVERS: Yes.
M. RIVERS: I just want to address something that Dr. Ludwig said before that Mariel actually brought up, which I find a great concern because Dr. Ludwig, and please correct me if I misunderstood you, I've spent a lot of my adult life explaining to people that suicide is not genetic.
There's a big difference where there's a family history of depression versus suicide and I think to promote the fact that you can say, oh we can -- you know depression is -- runs in -- I mean suicide runs in families no it doesn't.
Depression does, big, big, difference to me because I have spent, well since I was 16 years old explaining to people that I am not a freak and you don't have to worry about me because depression is not genetic (INAUDIBLE).
LUDWIG: There may be genetic vulnerabilities and they have found with people who have committed suicide that their brain does look different but, hey listen, in terms of any type of diagnosis you can't say just because it's in the family it will definitely happen to the next generation. That's just not the way things work and thank God it doesn't work that way.
J. RIVERS: What I think it is, it's a viable option. It's no longer just a thought. It's another choice. Somebody has done it so it's there in front of you.
LUDWIG: Well someone's done it and legitimized it.
J. RIVERS: Yes.
LUDWIG: Someone (INAUDIBLE) legitimize it therefore they (INAUDIBLE).
J. RIVERS: And modeled it.
LUDWIG: And modeled it is an option and sometimes and I've worked with many patients who have had suicide in their family and they feel a link and a connection they really want to understand why this person made the choice and very often they spend their whole life fighting so they don't have to go there.
J. RIVERS: Are you doing that Mariel?
HEMINGWAY: Well, I don't think of suicide as a part of my life. I've never been suicidal but both my sisters have had suicidal tendencies and it actually has been diagnosed as that, which I didn't know before Margaux's death that she suffered from that at all. I knew that she had some psychotic episodes.
These kinds of thing worry me, not really, I don't know if it's genetic worry or because the world is the way that it is and there are so many drugs out there and people live really crazy lives and I think that it brings the level of the intensity of our lives up, which I think can cause different kinds of things, different kinds of mental anguish.
And, I think there's a lot more depression, especially with teenagers and so these kinds of things frighten me and I think lifestyle is my only way to address it. I'm not a doctor. I'm not a psychologist.
I'm not a psychiatrist so my way is to go about my lifestyle and promoting that and using my lifestyle as an example for others. I hope that works. Yes, I do live with that looming over my head, not because I think I'm suicidal but because I don't know that we know exactly what's looming in our genetics or maybe it's just patterning or fears that come up.
J. RIVERS: Dr. Jamison, you actually, if my notes are correct, actually tried to commit suicide, you attempted it is that correct?
JAMISON: Yes, I have bipolar illness.
J. RIVERS: Yes. JAMISON: Which has a very high rate of suicide if it's left untreated but I would like to say there is definitely a genetic component to suicide as well as the mental illnesses that are most associated with suicide.
And, one of the things that we know is that more than 90 percent of suicides are associated with psychiatric illness and those illnesses are treatable so the really important thing to do is to recognize the early symptoms of depression, of bipolar illness, of schizophrenia, those illnesses that are most associated with committing suicide and recognize that there is also a genetic component to suicide in terms of impulsiveness and so forth.
There are a lot of studies that show that. Just because something is genetic doesn't mean that you're doomed to do it and it also has tremendous hopes because, in fact, the genetic research is going very, very rapidly. We're really learning an enormous amount about the brain and it's really important to emphasize that suicide is associated with treatable mental illness.
J. RIVERS: OK, we'll be right back with country star Mindy McCready who in the last year, in the last year has attempted suicide twice, so stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIETTE HARTLEY: I was divorced in 1994. I was 54 and I was sobbing on street corners. I could hardly lift my head up. I was in New York. I was doing a comedy and not feeling very funny. And, I became -- I had suicidal ideation at the time because my father had committed suicide. There was a part of me that said, no, my kids aren't going to go through this. And, I finally got help and I resisted help for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
J. RIVERS: It's Joan Rivers. We are back. We are talking with now Mindy McCready, country star, who had tried within the last year twice to commit suicide and you were pregnant and you are pregnant still, right, you're six months?
MINDY MCCREADY, COUNTRY STAR ATTEMPTED SUICIDE TWICE IN PAST YEAR: Yes, ma'am.
J. RIVERS: And you tried the second time. First time you tried it I believe not knowing you were pregnant.
J. RIVERS: And then the second time even knowing you were pregnant you did it again. Could you tell us a little bit about what's going on in your life and I have so many questions to ask you.
MCCREADY: Well, what's going on in my life right now are... J. RIVERS: You were going with Billy McKnight.
J. RIVERS: And he treated you badly and that was the first suicide attempt.
MCCREADY: Yes, well I was still seeing Billy both of the times.
J. RIVERS: Right.
MCCREADY: And this is his child that I'm carrying. The first time I don't have a lot of recollection. It wasn't something that I premeditated. It was, you know, a spur of the moment thing. Billy and I had gotten into a horrible argument and I, you know, took some pills, drank some wine and went to sleep.
J. RIVERS: The second time what happened?
MCCREADY: The second time I just had had enough. I was fed up. I was alone at my home in Nashville. There were so many things going on in the media about Billy and I, things that were being said that were not true.
I had just gotten out of jail and I'd never been in jail before. I was just at my wit's end and there were so many things being said to me to scare me about my legal issues that I really felt like I had no alternative.
J. RIVERS: When you woke up, if I can ask you Mindy, and you really meant it the second time in the research I did on you. I mean the first time you said maybe you meant to, maybe you didn't but the second time you said you really meant it.
How does it feel when you say that's it, I'm going now, I'm going to kill myself and then you wake up? Do you get a new lease on life? Do you say maybe God wants me not to die or do you say I shouldn't be here and I'm going to try it again?
MCCREADY: When you're in that moment when you make the decision that you don't want to live anymore the pain is indescribable. You just want the pain to stop. And, unfortunately you're not thinking consciously. You're not thinking rationally and depression and hurt clouds your ability to endure anything.
But when I woke up, I felt like I was really supposed to be here and even more than that when I found out that I was still pregnant and that my baby was OK, I really knew I was supposed to be here and I understood the magnitude of the gift of this child and it became something to me that I can't describe. I mean I would never, ever do that again. I love this person inside of me more than I've ever loved anything.
J. RIVERS: Are you in therapy now and were you then when you made the second attempt? MCCREADY: No, I was not in therapy and believe me if I had been I do not think that that would have been an option. I would have had someone to talk to. But I truly was at a place where I felt more alone than I have ever been in my life and that feeling of not having anywhere to turn, that despair, is more than half of the reason I think the people do make that decision, just not knowing who to go to, not knowing -- not knowing how to express yourself to the people that you're close to that this is how bad I'm feeling.
J. RIVERS: Right, right. Dr. Robi, she's tried it twice now and she's pregnant.
J. RIVERS: Postpartum blues, the first thing I was sitting there talking to Mindy I thought what happens if she gets a case of postpartum blues?
LUDWIG: Right, well that's something that her and her doctor are going to have to be very, very aware of.
J. RIVERS: Because that's when a lot of women...
LUDWIG: So, she might be very vulnerable or she might be fine.
J. RIVERS: Right.
LUDWIG: Because sometimes depression can hit for no reason at all and sometimes you can sail through something that's very difficult for most people and do beautifully and survive it fine.
J. RIVERS: Why -- last question before we go to break, why are so many people not willing after such a terrible thing as trying suicide to go into therapy to get help? What is this?
LUDWIG: Either it's a hopelessness or sometimes in society we don't really make it OK to have problems and to get help and so that impacts a person's desire to get treatment in some cases. They feel that they're not strong enough, smart enough and that somehow there's something sick and crazy about them. They have the idea it's normal. It will help them get the treatment they need.
J. RIVERS: Mindy, I thank you so much. Name the baby Joan even if it's a girl.
MCCREADY: What if it's a boy?
J. RIVERS: Well, so what. We'll figure that out later. Thank you so much.
J. RIVERS: We'll be right back and have a great time with the baby. It makes a big difference. Joan Rivers. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) J. RIVERS: All of us are busy celebrating and wrapping gifts and getting ready for good times to come, good times to come, but do you know that 80 Americans daily commit suicide and 1,500 attempt it? Bad statistic. What can we do about it?
Well, part of the things we can do about it is you can go to the LARRY KING LIVE show page. He will show you how to get help. There will be numbers and addresses where you go if indeed you have a friend that is in trouble, or perhaps you yourself are in trouble. Or you can call 1-800-273-TALK, and I'll give these information out again before the end of the show.
Meanwhile, I'd like to go back to Melissa Rivers, my daughter, who we were talking to earlier. Missy, and I'm going to ask each one of you the same question. Have you ever contemplated suicide?
M. RIVERS: No.
J. RIVERS: Never? Even your lowest, lowest moment?
M. RIVERS: Even at my lowest moment, it's never been a viable option for me. You know, one of the things that, surprisingly that you and daddy always taught me, was suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem. And even in my lowest moments, it's just not a viable option as far as I'm concerned. What kind of a legacy is that to leave for my mother or my son or my cousins, you know? I'm not -- I've been -- I've had people say, oh, well, you get upset and then we all think you're going to kill yourself. And I find that to be such a huge insult. It's simply not an option for me. Never has been.
J. RIVERS: Thank you. Mariel, what about you, Mariel? With such a history, a family history of almost, like, as we say a viable option to pick. Have you ever -- have you ever thought about it?
HEMINGWAY: I've never considered suicide for myself. But I think -- I think for me to address the fact that when you're in such despair, I mean, the fact that I haven't been there, I haven't been that low -- but people that get that low, I mean, the very reason they don't get help is that they can't. They can't see out of the darkness. And I think that's what deep depression is and bipolar disorder.
I mean, I've been very, very depressed before, but never to the point where I didn't see some light. And I think that's what happens. And I think the thing that's great about this show is we're saying to people, you can get help. It's not taboo to do, you know, to talk to somebody.
I think that in the world that we find this issue very, very uncomfortable, and we also believe that we have to take care of our own problem. And that when we get in despair, we feel so bad about ourselves or the people that are that dark.
So I think to know that you can get help, it's OK, that's the message of this -- of this show for me, is that people need to know that it's OK. That there's help out there. You know, if you're sick, there's a place to go. There's a person to talk to. There might be medication or some lifestyle choice that you can make that can help you out. And that's the key, is to know that you're not alone.
J. RIVERS: But when people are that down -- I very honestly will tell you, after my husband's suicide and things were so wrong with me, that I sat down one day in my dressing room and really thought about suicide. And was saved by my dog Spike, who came and sat in my lap. I thought, no one will take care of you.
Art, what about you, have you ever tried suicide?
LINKLETTER: I do not even think of suicide.
J. RIVERS: Right.
LINKLETTER: In fact, my whole life has been so spectacularly miraculous to me, that if there's no heaven, this is enough.
And my whole situation is different than all of the rest of these people. Because my daughter, Diane, did not have any despair. She did not have any depression. She was at a party and was given LSD. She went off her mind and leaped from her apartment building. So I was able to do something about it. I have staged an anti-drug campaign for the last 30 years. It's made a different person out of me, actually, because I've worked with young people and old people who are into the drug end of it. And after all, this right at the moment we're having one of the great drug epidemics with methamphetamine in the United States history. And it's not only just an addiction, it changes the brain of people, and it's almost impossible to handle. And I'm working with those kind of people. And just doing that made me feel good, because I was able to do something about it.
When my son was killed in an automobile accident, I felt helpless. I can't rebuild the bridges, rebuild cars, teach people how to drive. But drugs, I've spoken to millions of youngsters, I wrote a book about it "Drugs at my Doorstep," and I've preached and preached about it. And I know that I've had a lot to do with young people taking the safe road away from drugs.
J. RIVERS: Dr. Robi Ludwig, what about you, ever tried it?
LUDWIG: I haven't thought about it, but I have to tell you, it's because I have great people in my life and great support systems. And if I didn't have those support systems, I can't say that I wouldn't think about it seriously, because I think anyone can go there, because we're all fragile and strong at the same time.
J. RIVERS: Now we go to someone that did indeed try it, and that's Dr. Jamison.
JAMISON: Right, well, I think that -- you know, I think it is certainly important to have people in your life and so forth, but I think it's also important that if you have a really bad -- I never thought about suicide in my life. I'm optimistic by temperament. I love life. I can't imagine committing suicide. But the fact is, if you've got a really bad illness, like bipolar illness, severe depression, it changes the way you think. It changes everything about you.
I had lots of support. I had a great job. I was professorship at UCLA. I had people -- you know, just very happy. Lots of friendships. It just did not make a difference. The illness simply overwhelmed me.
And you know, what I think is quite wonderful in this day and age is that people are talking more about it. I thought Ms. Hemingway's points were absolutely wonderful, in the sense we have a lot of good treatments. We have a lot of good psychotherapies, lots of good medications, lots of good, you know, things that we know that we can do about our lifestyles that are healthy.
And that combination is out there, and what people need to know is that there is treatment, and that, you know, science really moves on. We've really made huge progress in understanding the mind and the brain.
J. RIVERS: We'll be right back. It's Joan Rivers after these messages.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANE PAULEY: I was suffering from a depression significant enough that I would spend two, three hours a day napping, and I knew they weren't naps. And I just felt, why am I -- why am I not working as hard? Why am I not living up to expectations? Of people who didn't know I wasn't, but that's how I felt about it.
But yeah, I tried to keep it extremely private. I didn't -- I certainly didn't want my kids to know something was wrong with mommy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
J. RIVERS: Joan Rivers, back by invitation from Larry King. Talking about suicide. Phones are going really, off the hook here. And we have one call ready from Rochester, New York. Rochester are you there?
LINKLETTER: Well, the show stopped right there.
J. RIVERS: Rochester?
LINKLETTER: Rochester's dead.
J. RIVERS: I feel so good because I usually watch Larry and I see this happen.
M. RIVERS: There, there.
J. RIVERS: Are you there?
CALLER: I'm sorry. I didn't hear you.
J. RIVERS: Good. Are you there?
J. RIVERS: Hi, it's Joan Rivers. You're on. You're on the air.
J. RIVERS: Hello?
J. RIVERS: Hi, can you hear me?
CALLER: Hello? Nobody's saying anything.
J. RIVERS: I think we should move on a little bit.
CALLER: OK, if you can hear me.
J. RIVERS: I think we'll move on and then we'll come back. Let me ask the doctors while we are taking a little break and trying to get our phone lines going here. I will start with Dr. Robi because she's right here in the studio with me. What are some basic signs?
It's not just depression, because we have -- my husband, there was no obvious depression at the moment and then he obviously had thought about it and went and did it. What are some of the signs to look for?
LUDWIG: Sometimes it's somebody saying, I want to kill myself, or the thought of death is a pleasant one. And then you have to explore it further. Do you have a plan? How did you plan on killing yourself? Do you have any weapons available to you? And if somebody talks about suicide a lot and they have a plan and they can't commit to safety, that's a serious danger sign that usually requires immediate attention like hospitalization.
J. RIVERS: What about, going to Dr. Jamison, what about children? The statistics on children are frightening. It's gone up in the age groups of 10-to-24, 200 percent since 1990. Now that's an amazing statistic.
JAMISON: Well, actually, most -- it really takes off about 15 or to 20. And that's a lot related to the fact that again, the major psychiatric illnesses that are related to suicide like depression and bipolar illness, tend to start in that age range.
And in fact, one of the really nice things that's happened over the last five years or so is that that suicide rate in adolescence has finally begun to go down, as a result of earlier treatment of the result of pediatricians and parents being much more aware of the early signs of depression.
J. RIVERS: But what should a parent look for?
JAMISON: Look for depression. Talk about it. If you have depression in your family, for heaven's sake, just talk about it in a straightforward way. Learn about the symptoms of depression. That people -- children will start to withdraw. Their grades may start deteriorating. They may get very angry and irritable.
They may turn to drugs. They may sleep a lot more or a lot less than usual. Be irritable and angry and so forth. So just to be -- learn to be aware of the symptoms of depression is a very important thing.
J. RIVERS: Melissa, there always tremendous after effects with suicide on all families. Mariel brought that up. What are some of the major effects in your life of daddy's suicide?
M. RIVERS: I think -- I mean, there's a couple. One is, I have massive abandonment issues. And I mean, I suppose they're getting better because I can now talk about the fact that my big fear is everybody leaves. Nobody, nobody's word is good.
The last thing my father said to me was, "I will see you tomorrow." You know, that's the great lie of my life. The great, you know, you know, the great lie told to me by the most important man in my life. "I will see you tomorrow," was the last phone call we had.
Obviously, you know, I didn't. So obviously I have a lot of abandonment issues. There was a lot of anger. What's so alarming for me about suicide is, I really feel that the victims are the ones that are left behind because it destroys your relationships or can destroy if you allow them to, with the living, with the survivors.
I mean our relationship was almost destroyed because of daddy's suicide. And that's something I think that people don't talk about enough is, the first thing you want to do and I know Mr. Linkletter referenced that, is point fingers and say, "What if? If only. If you had done this, if I had done that." And I think, you get a bad case of what I now call, "The What If's" or the "If Only's."
J. RIVERS: We're going to take a break and we'll be right back. It's Joan Rivers. Again, for those of you that may need the help or may know someone that needs the help, go to the LARRY KING LIVE show page or call 1-800-273-TALK, 1-800-273-TALK.
We'll be right back after these messages.
J. RIVERS: Joan Rivers back, talking about suicide. I have so many statistics, I've worked so hard with suicide survivors for the last 16 years.
One sad statistic and I will explain to you why: 20 percent of high school students, 20 percent have seriously considered or attempted suicide over the past 12 months, which brings us to a very sad breaking news story.
Tony Dungy, the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, you may have already heard this, his 18-year-old son James is, according to the sheriff, an apparent suicide. And it's tough guys. It's out there. And it's tough and I'm glad we can address it. And maybe, just make people aware -- and by awareness, you step more towards correcting bad situations. We have somebody -- we finally found Rochester, New York. Are you with us?
CALLER: Yes, I am. Hi, Joan.
J. RIVERS: Oh, I'm so glad. Good. You're on the air.
CALLER: OK. I wanted to say, at an early age back in 1965, my father called me up and he said he was going to do something that would make me very proud of him. And he committed suicide. And he was buried on my birthday. And then 14 years later, my mom died and she was buried on my birthday.
But because they said he was going to do something to make me proud of him, every time my poor children say, "Mom, I'm going to do something to make you proud of me," I go into a horrible, terrible fear and every month, I don't think I'm worthy to be alive because I think I'm going to commit suicide. My brother tried it. My sister tried it. And I think it's hereditary. And I'm 65 now, I've gotten through 40 years of -- well, horrible, horrible days. I can't function with people on the outside. And, Joan, in all honesty, you have been an inspiration to me with your story and what's happened to you and Melissa. I hold onto how you have the strength that gives me the strength to go on, because I see what you've done.
J. RIVERS: Are you in therapy now? Are you speaking to someone?
CALLER: I just wrote down that phone number and I will.
J. RIVERS: I beg you.
CALLER: Next week.
J. RIVERS: Not ask you, I beg you. You go in and you talk to someone. Well, let's go to doctor.
M. RIVERS: Let me jump in for one second because I have to say, you have to talk to someone immediately. Mariette Hartley saved my life. I did not know her. Her father had committed suicide. And her mother had attempted a year later. She got on the phone and called me as soon as she heard about my father. And it forced me to talk about it. You have to make the call tonight.
J. RIVERS: And to get someone, who has perhaps gone through it. Judy Collins, when her son killed himself, she found me in New Orleans and I didn't know her and we spoke the entire night together. And we talk about that. Now, Dr. Ludwig, what should someone do? This woman's in such pain.
J. RIVERS: Obviously held herself together for 40 years.
LUDWIG: Which means that she has an enormous strength and that she can survive. But probably has untreated depression. And it could be that her sibling somehow in trying to understand what the father did, sometimes it encourages a mimicking behavior in order to identify and try to understand.
Because that's what happens with suicide survivors. They're left with the question: Why? But why? How could you choose death over being with me? And some people try to find that by acting it out.
J. RIVERS: Yes. And how could you say, you would be proud of me?
LUDWIG: See now, that was very interesting. Either it was aggression or he felt that he was taking matters in life into his own hands. And in his distorted state of mind, felt somehow that was better than the alternative. Because you have to remember, when people are depressed, they are ill. Their brain is sick. And so some of the things that they say are inaccurate.
J. RIVERS: We'll be right back. Joan Rivers. And we will give the number out one more time after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CAVETT, ACTOR: For those who say, how could he do it? Suicide is always aimed at someone, someone said once. Not at all. No. If I'm gone, so what? Because nothing is any good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
J. RIVERS: It's Joan Rivers. Just one last time, if you need help or know of someone who needs help, go to LARRY KING LIVE show page. Or 1-800-273-TALK. Or just look up suicide in the phone book and you'll find there are a lot of little groups around. Now we have another call coming in, and this is from Bakersfield, California. Are you there Bakersfield?
CALLER: Hi. Thank you for taking my call.
J. RIVERS: My pleasure.
CALLER: My questions are for the therapist.
J. RIVERS: OK.
CALLER: For the first 15 years of my life, I was a practicing alcoholic. I got sober and was diagnosed with severe fibromyalgia, severe TMJ, degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel, and it goes on and on and on.
And I'm older now, I'm over 60 and I keep falling because my spine has no support. And add on to that a -- raising my son by myself when he was on drugs and he was violent towards me. And it seems like anytime somebody talks to me...
J. RIVERS: What is your question because we're running out of time and we'd like to help you.
CALLER: ... OK, I want to know, I tried to go off of Zoloft and I was a wreck. And these drugs must change your mind somehow, your brain.
LINKLETTER: They sure do.
J. RIVERS: Ladies, may I ask the two of you quickly, if we can. Drugs, yes, no?
JAMISON: Well, medication certainly do change your brain. And in almost all instances for the better. If you have depression, these are very effective medications. They are like all medications, they need to be taken carefully and monitored carefully.
Some people have a bad response. But for the most part, people do very well by them. So it's important that they're out there and available and certainly along with psychotherapy, can be very, very powerful tools against depression.
LUDWIG: And it sounds like the medication she's taking, it affects the serotonin in the brain, which is linked to depression. And it sounds like it's doing very well for her and she should continue under a doctor's supervision.
J. RIVERS: I wanted to say thank you to our panel. We are really running out of time. I'm going to ask each one you if you could say one word out there about suicide or its effects or what you would like to give people. What would you say? Let's start with Art Linkletter?
LINKLETTER: My word would be to young people who are excited about the idea of trying drugs, because if my daughter hadn't tried the drug, as a bright, curious experimenter, she'd be alive today.
J. RIVERS: Thank you.
J. RIVERS: Missy?
M. RIVERS: I'd have to say talk about it. It's not a stigma. Heal. I've even gone so far as to reaffirm my father's life by naming my son after him. You know, you have to respect the person's decision but it's not a stigma. It's not stuck to you. Talk about it.
J. RIVERS: OK, Mariel?
HEMINGWAY: I think for me, I think as a survivor of somebody committing suicide, that we need to quit as survivors and the people that didn't commit suicide to quit buying into the story that just because it happened in your family, doesn't mean it has to happen to you. So I think that's very important.
J. RIVERS: Thank you all very, very much. We're going to get to the doctors. Have you got any last things -- but first I have to say, because God knows when we will go off of the, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is coming up next, but without Anderson. It's like guest night here. They're going to have John King. And I thank you Larry so much for allowing me to sit here and then let me go back to the two doctors.
Last quick thoughts?
LUDWIG: There is always hope and just because you're feeling like there is no hope in the moment, doesn't make it true.
J. RIVERS: OK, and Dr. Jamison?
JAMISON: There's not only hope, there is a lot of good treatment and there's a lot to learn. Read about it. Ask your doctor about it. When in doubt, question and question and talk about it.
J. RIVERS: And I thank all of you out there. It's a holiday season and I hope your holidays are happy ones and healthy ones. And I hope tonight's program has brought some kind of -- a little awareness and a little knowledge and I hope a lot of health to people that are watching. Thank you all so much. Happy holidays.
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