A little over a week ago, I heard unexpected news via a Facebook status update: My sweet and kind friend Ned Vizzini had committed suicide.
We met through mutual friends several years ago — perhaps at a reading or in a bar. I can’t recall. I immediately recognized him, “You’re Ned Vizzini! The author!!!” He was happy to talk to me about his career and writing and everything else. We hit it off and stayed in touch through the years.
In 2006, the year that Ned’s most popular book to date, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” was published, he signed and gave me an advance copy of the novel. He wanted my opinion about the book. He genuinely cared about what I had to say.
The book is about 16-year-old Craig and his experience in a psychiatric ward. “85% of ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ is true. I based it on my own experience in Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn in late 2004,” wrote Ned. Like thousands of others, I loved the book, which eventually became a New York Times bestselling novel and feature film starring Emma Roberts and Zach Galifianakis.
Ned gained literary success at a ridiculously early age. At the age of 15 he wrote a column in The New York Press, two years later he wrote an essay for the New York Times Magazine titled “Teen Angst? Nah!” about being a teen in the 90’s (I just reread the essay and it still resonates to this day.) When Ned was a student at Hunter College he wrote his first book, a collection of essays titled “Teen Angst? Naaah…”. In 2004 he wrote his first novel, “Be More Chill.” Then he reached national recognition when he published “It’s Kind Of a Funny Story.”
I can sit here and go on about Ned’s early accomplishments, but more recently he had been writing for this network, MTV, specifically episodes for “Teen Wolf.” He also wrote for the TV shows “Believe” and “Last Resort.” Last year he published a novel, “The Other Normals,” and earlier this year he worked on “House of Secrets” with film director Chris Columbus.
When I heard news that he died of suicide, I, like many others, was shocked. I knew that he had battled with mental health issues, but I thought the worst was behind him. It took me a while to register the news. As I write this, though, it’s finally settling in for me. He’s gone.
Over the weekend, I looked at my correspondence with Ned — Facebook messages and emails. I was looking for proof of … I don’t know what. Then I realized that I was running around in circles. Reading messages from the past didn’t lead me anywhere. It didn’t make me feel better. So I stopped.
I keep thinking about his fans and friends alike, who have said in the past week that Ned helped them heal as they were battling the dark demon we know as depression. Ned had so much potential that we’ll never see.
Author Rachel Cohn wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “How it hurts that he succumbed to the very disease he’d done so much to educate readers about, and help them through. He was truly a unique person and writer, but his books will live on to help generations.”
My thoughts are with his family, fellow friends and fans. May you rest in peace, Ned.
If you or a friend is battling depression or is having suicidal thoughts, please know that you’re not alone. Check out HalfOfUs.com for resources on getting help.
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