Celebrity Suicides Highlight Antidepressant Questions

February was a month plagued by celebrity suicide. Former "Growing Pains" actor 41-year-old Andrew Koenig, 40-year-old fashion designer Alexander McQueen and Michael Blosil the teenage son of singer Marie Osmond all took their lives within weeks of each other.

Yet in between the vigils and TV coverage of the deaths, were the standard (and almost incongruous) commercials for antidepressants, promising relief.

In a country where antidepressant use is booming and suicide rates have barely budged, experts say science is still just trying to find the basic answer to how antidepressants work.

Celebrities, meanwhile, often become the face of what is usually a personal struggle. Everyone from actor Jim Carrey to singer Alicia Keys feed the public their own views on how to deal with depression.

In a 2004 interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" Carrey said he had to stop taking drugs to feel better from depression. "I had to get off at a certain point because I realized that . . . everything is just okay," he said. "It feels like a low level of despair you live in where you're not getting any answers but you're living okay and you can smile at the office," he said.

Alicia Keys confessed to a two-year bout of depression. But the singer-songwriter said she can work through her depression.

"Pain ... it's just an immediate feeling that drives me to write. But now I can say that even in joy I can express myself," Keys told the Toronto Sun in 2009.

Not everyone in America finds creativity in depression.

Antidepressant Nation

By 2005, 10 percent of Americans over the age of 6 were taking antidepressants, according to the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality. Meanwhile the suicide rates in the past 10 years have modestly declined for men from 24 to 20 suicides per 100,000 people. The suicide rate was unchanged for women.

"We still don't know why these medications work, when they work or why they fail when they fail," said Dr. J. Raymond DePaulo, chair of the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Doctors Still Don't Understand How Antidepressants Work

Walter Koenig, Andrew Koenig's father was apparently unaware Koenig sold or gave away all of his possessions and terminated his 14-year lease on his apartment before leaving Los Angeles for Vancouver, where his body was found in a park.

"My son took his own life," Koenig's father Walter Koenig told reporters Friday.

He also has said that his son battled depression for years, but had stopped taking antidepressants about a year ago.

"The only thing I want to say is if you're one of those people who feel that you can't handle it anymore, if you can learn anything from this it's that there are people out there who really care," Walter Koenig said. "You may not think so, and ultimately it may not be enough, but there are people that really, really care."

British designer Alexander McQueen receives applause at the end of his ready-to-wear 2003 spring-summer collection in Paris, in this October 5, 2002, photo.

DePaulo said it is impossible to tell whether Koenig's decision to stop taking antidepressants might have contributed to his death. Most antidepressants fall into a class of drugs called SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

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