Soap Star Speaks About Dad's Suicide

Michelle Ray Smith CBS/The Early Show

Michelle Ray Smith stars in the CBS soap opera "Guiding Light" as Ava Peralta. Behind her success in show business, she has endured unimaginable tragedy.

On Sept. 29, 2003, police found Smith's father, Jeff Smith, inside a car. He had died from carbon monoxide poisoning, four days shy of his 50th birthday. Smith writes about grappling with his death in the October issue of Glamour magazine.

Opening up about her fathers' death was not easy for Smith. In fact, her appearance on The Early Show was the first time she spoke publicly about it. Aside from her own personal pain, the stigma attached to suicide makes talking about it even harder for Smith.

"Most people don't understand suicide and depression is a disease," she said. "Suicide is, like you said one minute of every single day someone dies by suicide. It's extraordinary amount."

Photos: "Guiding Light": Then And Now
Growing up, Smith never realized her father was depressed but she started noticing changes as he approached 50. He became withdrawn and easily agitated by little things.

"His temper became a bit of issue and there were signs he was suffering from depression," she said.

Smith said her relationship with her father became strained. They were having arguments on the phone the last time they spoke. They basically hung up on each other.

"It was difficult," she said. "I was trying to get him help. There are so many emotions involved, especially when you have a father-daughter relationship, because I always looked to my father as being the strong one, who makes the right decisions. For me, I had that perspective."

Before he died, Smith's father had an unsuccessful suicide attempt but the family didn't know how to handle it. That is why Smith feels that it is so important to speak out.

"We now know we could have called the police and had the police come in and help my father," she said. "I want to talk to people about having a discussion about suicide with someone you think is depressed. I know I was nervous about talking with my father and saying, 'Dad, have you thought about suicide? Have you thought about taking your life? Let's talk about it. I'm here for you.' I would much rather ask someone I thought was depressed if they were contemplating suicide and have something horrible happen than think, 'Why didn't I have the courage to ask a question that maybe made my feel uncomfortable?' "

Read Smith's article on www.glamour.com.
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