A continuation of Pt. 1- “Hollywood in Hades” .
Let’s take a look at a few of the more high brow celebrity deaths from 2009-2010 (so far) which have related in some form or another, to prescription drug use or abuse, lifestyle and suicide.
1. The “King of Pop” Michael Jackson– Died June 25, 2009. Official cause of death ruled a homicide (although, my belief is, at some point the person taking, or requesting the drugs, must be held accountable as well) caused by acute propofol intoxication, along with other sedatives such as ativan and valium. (Commonly used for anxiety disorders.)
2. Popular actress Brittany Murphy– Found unconscious in the bathroom of her shared apartment with husband Simon Monjack, and mother, Sharon Murphy, on December 20, 2009. She was pronounced dead on the scene after frantic CPR efforts on behalf of her husband failed. Murphy’s death was officially ruled an accident, caused by the combined effects of community acquired pneumonia and multiple drug intoxication. Drugs included were over the counter flu medications and hydrocodone, (a schedule I narcotic pain-killer) all of which registered at elevated levels in her toxicology report. Murphy was just 30 years old.
3. Socialite and Johnson & Johnson heiress, Casey Johnson– Found dead in her California home on January 4, 2010, apparently having been in a diabetic coma for days before her demise. Johnson’s official cause of death was caused by diabetic ketoacidosis, the result of a lack of insulin and high blood sugar. In other words, she died of self neglection. Johnson was a regular in the LA party scene and struggled with drug addiction throughout her 30 years of life.
4. English fashion designer Alexander McQueen– Named designer of the year four times, and beloved by many in the world of fashion for his “dramatic statement pieces,” McQueen was found dead in his London home on February 11, 2010. According to the Huffington Post, “A bereaved Alexander McQueen left a note, then hanged himself in his apartment on the eve of his mother’s funeral, a coroner’s inquest said Wednesday, giving the cause of the fashion designer’s death as asphyxiation and hanging.” Other sources also mentioned a recent break up with a man whose name he tattooed on himself.
5. Best known as “Boner” from the 80’s sitcom “Growing Pains,” Andrew Koenig– According to People.com, on February 16, 2010, Walter Koenig (actor and father of Andrew) received a disturbing note from his son, who was supposed to arrive back home in LA on February 14th after a trip to Canada. He never returned. On February 25, Andrew Koenig’s body was found at Vancouver’s Stanley Park by friends. Despite the Canadian police department’s decision not to release a cause of death, (coroner’s investigation pending) Andrew’s father, Walter, appeared at a press conference with tears in his eyes declaring that his son took his own life. Mr. Koenig had good reason to claim suicide as his son’s cause of death. Left behind was a long trail of clues implicating Andrew’s own hand in his death. He had also battled severe depression for a number of years, but chose not to continue treatment for his disorder(s).
6. Michael Blosil, son of Marie Osmond, one half of the famous Osmond Family– Just one day after Andrew Koenig’s body was found, on February 26, 2010, Marie Osmond’s son, Michael, committed suicide by jumping to his death from his 8th floor apartment. He left a note intending his suicide, and labeled his life long battle with severe depression as the reason. Blosil had also been in a drug rehabilitation center at age 16. He was just 18 years old at the time of his death.
There is a clear and visible pattern here that should be easily recognized -but, hidden within the pattern are shades of elusiveness, undetectable by the naked eye.
Here are some important facts that are widely dismissed by the media and other such outlets.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center , “Many chronic drug abusers often simultaneously suffer from a serious mental disorder.” Medical professionals call this a co-occurring disorder, or a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis can also be used in conjunction with a person suffering from more than one mental disorder.
- Co-occurring disorders are more common than people think. A 2002 survey estimated “4.0 million adults met the criteria for both a serious mental illness and substance abuse.”
The recent spate of celebrity suicides spawned Psychcentral.com to dedicate a few blogs to the subject, which include some startling statistics. For example, suicide remains the third-leading cause of death among older teenagers in the United States. Young men are four times more at risk than young women.
To put it another way, “over 4,000 teens and young adults take their lives every year here in the U.S. (an additional 26,000+ adults do so.”)
Another blog on Psychcentral.com, written by fellow blogger, Christine Stapleton, hits a real hot spot in regards to the media and their aiding in the negative stigmatization of mental illness, drug abuse and suicide.
Mental illness is not discriminatory. Whether you’re a celebrity, a regular joe/jane, poor, rich, black or white, religious or atheist, doesn’t matter. When mental illness and suicide are covered in the media, it shouldn’t only apply to celebrities- or, as Ms. Stapleton says, “when a suicide affects the public- for instance, when a tortured soul jumps off an overpass during rush hour and brings traffic to a halt.” It shouldn’t have to take a celebrity, or a shockingly gruesome, self-inflicted death to grab the media’s attention. But, since it does, it should be used appropriately.
The question that remains now is, how many highly publicized deaths are going to have to take place before media outlets address the real issue?
“Like several physical illnesses, mental illness does not yet have a cure, but it can be managed.”