As a 10-foot-tall sign reading “Suicide Prevention Center” was recently unveiled outside Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in Los Angeles, Melissa Rivers clapped and cheered. “We are the first mental health group in California with signage that says ‘suicide prevention’ out front,” Melissa, who recently joined the board of directors of the nonprofit, exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “That is huge.”
The tragic 1987 suicide of her father, Edgar Rosenberg, who suffered from depression, cemented Melissa’s commitment to mental health causes early in her life. “I was a teenager when my father died. It changed everything,” Melissa, 51, confided. “It’s such an unnatural cause of death — we came out not whispering, but roaring about it.”
To help other families and reduce the stigma attached to depression and suicide, Melissa and her mother, the late comedian Joan Rivers, discussed Edgar’s death openly. “My mom and I were two of the first well-known people to come out and speak about suicide and losing a loved one,” Melissa proudly said.
She hopes that by removing the taboo of talking about suicide, more people will seek help and less will suffer losses. “As a society, we’ve begun to discuss mental health more openly. Hopefully, in five years, discussion of suicide and suicide prevention will be in the same place,” Melissa said. “The more we talk, the more it comes out of the shadows.”
The meaningful work she’s done on behalf of suicide prevention has also helped Melissa reconcile the loss of her beloved father. “It’s funny that something that was born out of anger has become a driving force in my life,” Melissa said. “It’s become something that’s very positive.”
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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