Marie Osmond, Walter Koenig

Peter Kramer/Getty Images; Shea Walsh/Getty Images

First Walter Koenig's son, and now poor Marie Osmond's 18-year-old boy. These suicides are so sad. Is there something about being a child of a celebrity that spurs all this?
—LogiX, via the Answer B!tch inbox

Your question is legitimate, but let's proceed with caution here. I'm not a psychiatrist, and we don't know either of these families. There are literally dozens of reasons why a person would fall victim to depression or suicidal tendencies, regardless of the status of someone's parents.

That said, I reached out to several psychologists with experience treating the children of celebrities.

What they have to say is very telling...

First, let's look at the ages of the two celebrity children. Andrew Koenig was 41 when he took his own life in Vancouver. But Michael Blosil was 18—a prime age for suicides, I am told.

"For young people between 15 and 24, it's the third-highest leading cause of death," says Dr. Charles Sophy, who treats many children of celebrities in his practice.

But does having a famous parent complicate the issue? It's possible, Sophy says.

It's not like there have been a ton of studies in this obviously really narrow field, but busy and distant parents are known hallmarks of children with mood or learning disorders in general. And as I've written before, celebrities aren't known for spending loads of time with their young ones. There's also a possible genetic link, though no one knows for sure.

"Many creative people throughout history have suffered from mood disorders—Van Gogh and so on—but does that mean that children of those people are also susceptible? It could be," Sophy posits.

Male children of male celebrities may also suffer disproportionately, suggests psychiatrist Paul Dobransky.

"When you are talking about the son of a celebrity, you talk about someone having a horrible time rising to the precedent to their parents," Dobransky notes. "And one of the factors in determining ongoing mental health and happiness, especially in men, is career success."

In the case of Andrew Koenig, he was an actor who appeared in the sitcom Growing Pains, but never reached the iconic status enjoyed by his father, Star Trek actor Walter.

Finally, celebrity kids may go into life generally less prepared to handle setbacks and failures.

"What we do know is that a lot of kids who grow up with a lot of things take what they have for granted," Dr. Gilda Carle, who has treated celebrity kids, tells me.

"They think they're entitled because they've been taught they are. It's the first obstacle they meet that really throws them for a loop. They never develop the emotional muscle to deal with the word 'no.'"

Whatever the reasons, we hope this is the last news we get involving this kind of tragedy.


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