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A Californian lost…

The body of actor Andrew Koenig, 41,  was found in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia this week. According to his father, actor Walter Koenig, perhaps best known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek series and Alfred Bester in Babylon 5, Andrew Koenig committed suicide. Andrew Koenig had stopped taking his medication for depression about a year ago.

Andrew Koenig appeared in 25 episodes of “Growing Pains” from 1985 to 1989 in the role of Richard “Boner” Stabone. According to the CNN article:

“He performed at The Improv and had roles in movies that included “NonSeNse,” “InAlienable,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Batman: Dead End.” He also acted on television in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “G.I. Joe,” “My Two Dads,” “21 Jump Street,” “My Sister Sam” and “Adam-12,” the Web site said, and edited, directed, produced and wrote a number of films.”

Andrew Koenig was also an activist who was interested in many causes. He opposed U.S. involvement in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China because of China’s support for a repressive regime in Myanmar (Burma).

Although there are laws that demand “parity” in the treatment of “mental illnesses” and “physical illnesses” in the U.S., the reality is grim. There is still a stigma attached to “mental illness,” even though “mental illnesses” are actually “physical illnesses” that affect that physical organ, the human brain. It is time to recognize that mental illnesses ARE physical illnesses and to treat them accordingly and equally.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state:

“Depression and anxiety are two major causes of illness and death in the United States and are associated with reduced quality of life, social functioning, and excess disability. Psychiatric conditions such as depression can contribute to or worsen chronic diseases. Depression and anxiety frequently co-occur and when they do they have an even greater impact than when they occur alone.”

and, in 2006,

“Approximately 15.7% of people reported being told by a health care provider that they had depression at some point in their lifetime; approximately 11.3% of people reported being told by a healthcare provider that they had anxiety at some point during their lifetime.”

Given the CDC maps of the statistics on depression and anxiety, it is likely that each and every one of us is either affected directly by depression and/or anxiety, or knows someone who is.

CDC has a feature page about depression and anxiety, with the encouraging message that “Treatment Works: Get Help for Depression and Anxiety.” There is also contact information for finding help on that page, including “… the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.”

CDC reminds us that depression is NOT a normal part of growing older, but that older adults are at an increased risk. CDC also provides us with links to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) pages (with detailed booklets) on depression and anxiety disorders (including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Other NIMH pages are devoted to bipolar disorder and the “genetic hotspot” that confers risk for both bipolar disorder and depression. The page about the suspect gene, PBRM1 (which codes for a protein critical for chromatin remodeling, a key process in regulating gene expression) also states that “Major mood disorders affect 20 percent of the population and are among the leading causes of disability worldwide.”

We express our sympathies to the parents of Andrew Koenig and join them in echoing, “…there is help…” and “…there are people who really care….”

(Note added February 27, 2010: Authorities have confirmed that Michael Blosil, the 18-year-old son of entertainer Marie Osmond has died in downtown LA. Officials would not comment on a report in that Blosil had jumped from his eighth-story apartment.) (Note added February 28, 2010: Police said today that Michael Blosil’s death has been classified as a suicide. Our sympathies go out to his family.) (Note added March 2, 2010: According to radio news this morning, Blosil’s suicide note referenced his long battle with depression.)

-Bill at

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