Melissa Rivers Urges Awareness During Suicide Prevention Week
Cheddar / September 12, 2019
Melissa Rivers is widely known for the many laughs she brought to audiences while gossiping about celebrities with her mother, the late comedian Joan Rivers.
But Melissa Rivers also uses her public persona to advocate for suicide awareness. Her father took his own life while she was a student in college. Now, as a board member for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, Rivers works to make sure people have access to mental health and suicide resources.
“Now we are talking about it much more openly,” Rivers told Cheddar during National Suicide Prevention Week. “There’s been a lot of press around suicide in the last couple months … it’s wonderful that people aren’t afraid. And that’s what we’re working toward.”
Rivers entered grief counseling after the passing of her father, something she says is now much more widely available for those affected by suicide, although the outcry for help and support is still overwhelming.
“Didi Hirsch alone fields more than 100,000 calls a year, including a bilingual [service] now, too,” Rivers said. “To have those kind of resources that people can call, who are suicidal or know someone suicidal …They even have chats [now], which is fantastic.”
One thing Rivers wishes she’d known were the signs to look for that might indicate a person is suicidal. She credits the media with helping to expose these red flags today.
“Don’t be afraid. It’s not something to be embarrassed about,” Rivers said. “Everybody has something; everybody has stressors in life. It’s okay to say, ‘I’m having trouble handling this’ or ‘I’m really scared.'”
Rivers compares the progress of suicide awareness in society to where mental health was five years ago. Today, topics like depression and anxiety are vastly more prevalent in normal conversation. Advocates are still working to make suicide a large part of the mental health conversation, hoping that normalizing the topic will prevent others taking their lives.
“I had a friend kill herself freshman year in college and my father said, ‘Never forget suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,’ and he didn’t heed his own advice, which is one of the great ironies of my life,” Rivers said. “There are so many services out there now to address issues and mental health. All problems can be temporary, so there is no reason to give up.”