Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chekov's misery

Boner has bit the big one. Andrew Koenig, the onetime child actor from "Growing Pains," who grew up as the son of "Star Trek's" Walter Koenig, only to become a tormented 41-year-old depressive, apparently ended his own life on or around Valentine's Day. Koenig's body lay undiscovered in a remote section of Vancouver's Stanley Park for the past 10-plus days. After several days of exhaustive searching, the well-known actor who portrayed Ensign Pavel Chekov on the original Star Trek series and his wife were notified that their son's body had been found. Vancouver police have ruled out the possibility of foul play. It is another tragedy related to the inevitable consequences of unchecked depression, a disease which, if untreated, almost always leads to death or madness. The simple truth is that anyone hell-bent on dispatching himself or herself will probably do so eventually. Some people attempt suicide as a cry for help and as a mechanism for attention. Sylvia Plath had the routine down so regularly that when she figuratively stuck her head in the unlit oven, she knew just when her paid worker would arrive in time to turn off the gas and save her again. The only thing she hadn't counted on was that her helper might have missed her bus. That act of accidental tardiness proved to be fatal. It was a suicide, but one that might have just as easily been another in a series of attempted suicides. More recently, another son of an actor, David Carradine of TV's "Kung Fu" and the "Kill Bill" films carried out an autoerotic act that led to his untimely demise by suffocation. Again, it was an unintended suicide. What happened to Koenig was an entirely different matter. He suffered so much in life - perhaps because of the shadow of having to live up to his famous father - that everything seemed tedious or tortuous to him. Apparently, he was on medication for treatment of depression, but like a lot of patients who are in a downward spiral, taking those prescriptions regularly proved to be too difficult. The pain of this event should be a wake up call to those teetering on the edge. Suicide may seem a quick way out, but it has disastrous consequences for family members and it never eases the pain for loved ones left behind. I have long held the belief that suicide is the final symptom of unchecked depression, a disease that brushed many of my fellow New Orleanians when dealing with the flooding, related deaths and loss of community we experienced following Hurricane Katrina. While I never contemplated suicide or found myself unable to cope as others did, it would have been a different story had I not had support through counseling in my home away from home in Cleveland. That simple mechanism helped me to deal with the vicissitudes of life in part from having to be separated from home, hearth and extended community. Luckily, my mechanisms for self-preservation kicked in without the need for medications, but there are a number of people for whom these drugs mean the difference between a productive life and a life with no purpose. The lesson to be learned here is there but for the grace of God, would I go too. There are too many times that tragedies like these could be averted were those stricken to seek out treatment, get counseling and take their medications. For Koenig it is simply too late, but for those who have loved ones still struggling with depression, take his father Walter's words of good counsel to heart: "If you are one of those people who can't handle it any more, know people are out there who really care before you make that final decision," he said. "Talk to somebody."

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