Are Children of Celebrities More Prone to Suicide Attempts?

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Paris Jackson (Splash News)

Burning Question: Reading about Paris Jackson's suicide attempt, I have to wonder: Are children of stars more vulnerable to depression than the rest of us? Why would no one around her see that she might need help? — Asia E

Indeed, the 15-year-old daughter of the late Michael Jackson has been hospitalized following an early-morning suicide attempt today. Details are sketchy, and at this point there's no way to really know what may have spurred the poor girl to veer into such a sad and dark place.

As for your question: Children of celebrities do have unique privileges ... and problems. Hollywood fame hasn't always translated to happy home life: Gregory Peck, Mary Tyler Moore, Paul Newman, and more recently "Star Trek's" Walter Koenig all suffered through the suicides of their children. Dozens of other A-listers and rock stars have had children diagnosed with severe depression.

But that doesn't always make celebrity offspring more susceptible to a problem that millions of people face every day.

[Related: Paris Jackson Timeline — From Disguised Kid to Twitter Star to Near Suicide Tragedy]

"Empirically, I wouldn't say there is a higher risk of suicidal thoughts" in children of the famous, says Dr. Anandhi Narasimhan, who has worked with celebrity kids. "I don't know that anyone has specifically looked at that per se, but I do think that being a child of somebody in the limelight does come with certain challenges."

Such as? Let's start with the stress.

In general, depression and anxiety — which often trigger suicidal thoughts — are multi-factoral, meaning that a host of influences can cause such problems. If Jackson is suffering from depression, the causes may include genetics, a chemical imbalance or environmental factors. (Like, say, an ongoing trial involving the sudden death of one's father.)

And you know what can magnify all that stress? Dealing with any of the above ... while juggling nearly 1.2 million Twitter followers.

[Related: Paris Jackson and Other Troubled Pop Progeny]

"When someone is on a public platform, things like embarrassment and scrutiny are more pronounced, and that can cause a lot of stress, feelings of guilt — more so than someone who can keep things private," Narasimhan explains. "When millions of people are watching you, that can contribute to depression."

As for why the people around Jackson may have missed signs of trouble, experts tell me they aren't surprised.

"Most people who struggle with this never get help," says Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, a group dedicated to helping people facing depression, self-injury and suicide. "They struggle alone."

In other words, just because Jackson has a big family and an even bigger Twitter fan base doesn't mean that she's sharing her innermost thoughts with anyone.

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