Melissa Rivers is used to voicing her opinion. Funny and outspoken -- like her mother, comedian Joan Rivers --she's best known for E!'s pre-Oscars fashion and interview show Live with Joan and Melissa. She’s candidly shared her views in forums ranging from NBC's Celebrity Apprentice to her popular self-help book, Red Carpet Ready: Secrets for Making the Most of Any Moment You're in the Spotlight. Now, she's partnered with the Jed Foundation to raise awareness about mental illness and help prevent suicide among college students.
"People are terribly uncomfortable speaking about mental illness because there is still a stigma attached to it," says the 42-year-old single mom, who lost her father, television producer Edgar Rosenberg, to suicide when she was only 19.
"Over half my life I've been aware of [mental illness and suicide] and talking about it because I felt so stigmatized. It's wonderful to finally find a group that not only speaks openly about it but also actively promotes talking about it, especially for teens transitioning into college." Rivers is right about that particular group: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students, and each year thousands never graduate because of untreated mental health problems, according to the Jed Foundation.
"Sixty percent of students report being so stressed out they can't get their work done, and one in 10 students has signs of moderate to severe depression," says Rivers, noting that sudden difficulties in relationships, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and pulling away from friends and family are common signs. And the person dealing with the mental illness is not the only one affected. Family and friends often feel at a loss, but there are ways to help.
"Get online, support your mental health clinics," says Rivers, who recently took time out of her whirlwind schedule -- her new reality show, Joan & Melissa: Mother Knows Best?, airs on WE tv in January -- to appear in posters for the Jed Foundation's Facebook campaign, It's On My Mind, and to host the foundation's 2010 annual gala last June. Rivers adds: "And talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. You're not going to just be changing a life -- you could be saving a life."