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Melissa Rivers shares concerns about her son’s mental health after she lost her father to suicide

Melissa Rivers has been candid about her mental health fears for her 20-year-old son Cooper Endicott, saying they’ve had many conversations about her father’s suicide and that there’s a “genetic component” he needs to be aware of.

The 53-year-old daughter of iconic comedian Joan Rivers and TV producer Edgar Rosenberg has been candid with her only child about depression and suicide, but she admitted it was difficult to keep lines of communication open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Of course I live in fear – the suicide rates of teenagers break my heart. And sadly, age is getting younger, and younger, and younger, Rivers said People.

Honest: Melissa Rivers, 53, is candid about her mental health concerns for her 20-year-old son Cooper after she lost her father to suicide

Honest: Melissa Rivers, 53, is candid about her mental health concerns for her 20-year-old son Cooper after she lost her father to suicide

Honest: Rivers (pictured with Cooper) admitted alarming rise in teenage suicides is making her live in 'anxiety'

Honest: Rivers (pictured with Cooper) admitted alarming rise in teenage suicides is making her live in 'anxiety'

Honest: Rivers (pictured with Cooper) admitted alarming rise in teenage suicides is making her live in ‘anxiety’

Cooper was in his freshman year of college when he had to drop out of school and be locked up with his mother, which was a struggle for both of them.

“It was scary. I really had to encourage a conversation with my son because he’s not the kind of kid who does, but he’s very, very sensitive,” she explained. “We needed to talk about how hard it was, and encourage him and his friends to have these conversations.”

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide attempts among 12- to 17-year-olds skyrocketed during the pandemic, especially among girls.

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association explained a national emergency in the mental health of children and adolescents.

Family photo: Rivers is the only child of iconic comedian Joan Rivers and TV producer Edgar Rosenberg

Family photo: Rivers is the only child of iconic comedian Joan Rivers and TV producer Edgar Rosenberg

Family photo: Rivers is the only child of iconic comedian Joan Rivers and TV producer Edgar Rosenberg

Heartbreak: The mental health champion was just 18 when she lost her father to suicide in 1987, and admitted she's living in 'anxiety' due to the alarming rise in teenage suicides

Heartbreak: The mental health champion was just 18 when she lost her father to suicide in 1987, and admitted she's living in 'anxiety' due to the alarming rise in teenage suicides

Heartbreak: The mental health champion was just 18 when she lost her father to suicide in 1987, and admitted she’s living in ‘anxiety’ due to the alarming rise in teenage suicides

Rivers, a mental health advocate since losing her father to suicide in 1987, admitted it was stressful for her to be a source of comfort during a time of such uncertainty.

“It puts so much pressure on the parent. At least it did for me, because I had to be the strong one. I had to be the [one saying]”It’s okay, we’ll get through this,” she said. “And there were times when I said to him, ‘You’re miserable to be here — trust me, I’m not too happy to be locked up in the house, either.”‘

Rivers was only 18 when her father died by suicide at age 62. She and her comedian Mother Joan tried to break the stigma surrounding depression and suicide by talking openly about their loss.

The mother of one said: candid conversations about mental health issues have “always” been a part of her relationship with her son, but quarantine “pushed it to the forefront.”

“We’ve been talking very openly for years about surviving my father’s suicide, that it’s not a solution, and the damage it leaves behind. … I’m very honest about what I’ve been through, and what my mother went through, the problems it caused and the things I need to be aware of as an adult,” she said.

Co-parents: Cooper is Rivers' only child with ex-husband John Endicott, whom she was married to from 1998 to 2003

Co-parents: Cooper is Rivers' only child with ex-husband John Endicott, whom she was married to from 1998 to 2003

Co-parents: Cooper is Rivers’ only child with ex-husband John Endicott, whom she was married to from 1998 to 2003

Open: Rivers shared that she had a number of conversations with Cooper about her father's depression and the effect his suicide had on her and her mother (pictured in 2013)

Open: Rivers shared that she had a number of conversations with Cooper about her father's depression and the effect his suicide had on her and her mother (pictured in 2013)

Open: Rivers shared that she had a number of conversations with Cooper about her father’s depression and the effect his suicide had on her and her mother (pictured in 2013)

“I have abandonment issues that are sometimes very difficult for me for various reasons in my life, but my father killed himself when I was 18 years old – it affects you. So it has always been a very big discussion at our house.’

Rivers noted that any time there is a “very public suicide,” she will talk to Cooper about it, saying he “has the vocabulary to talk about it.”

She has also made sure he is well aware of the “bigger umbrella” factors that contribute to suicide risk and how they affect him.

“I don’t think mental illness per se runs in our family. …I am always very careful with the implications of [saying] that, which can be so negative instead of saying, “Hey, my dad was suffering from depression, and we didn’t know until it was too late and we’d already survived his suicide,” she said.

Looking back: Rivers (pictured with Cooper in 2015) said candid conversations about mental health issues were “always” part of her relationship with her son

Warning: Rivers also made sure Cooper is aware of the 'bigger umbrella' factors that contribute to suicide risk, explaining that there may be a 'genetic component' to depression

Warning: Rivers also made sure Cooper is aware of the 'bigger umbrella' factors that contribute to suicide risk, explaining that there may be a 'genetic component' to depression

Warning: Rivers also made sure Cooper is aware of the ‘bigger umbrella’ factors that contribute to suicide risk, explaining that there may be a ‘genetic component’ to depression

“So it’s like, “Hey, there could be a… [genetic] part of that, just like alcoholism or heart disease or cancer that you should be aware of and not be afraid to tackle. If you’re not feeling well, you’re going to tell me, so you have to tell me mentally, too, if you’re not feeling well.”

Rivers will pay tribute to the 2,160 lives lost to suicide every day during the Alive Together: Uniting to Prevent Suicide event streaming live worldwide Sunday from Exposition Park in Los Angeles.

As part of her advocacy, she also serves on the board of Didi Hirsch, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that offers free mental health, suicide prevention, and substance abuse rehabilitation services.

Rivers encouraged others to help improve mental health by making donations to nonprofit organizations such as Didi Hirsch and participating in community engagement events.

“You can save a life today,” she said. “Literally you can make a difference today.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of more than 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service through a toll-free hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

It is available to anyone in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

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