Ned Vizzini dies at 32; author wrote openly about his depression

Author and television writer Ned Vizzini, who achieved fame at a young age but also wrote openly about his struggles with depression, took his own life Thursday in Brooklyn, said a spokeswoman for the chief medical examiner of New York. He was 32.

His brother, Daniel, said he jumped from the roof of his parents’ home, according to an Associated Press report.

Vizzini’s comic and autobiographical writing, while still a high school student in New York, drew critical acclaim. More recently he lived in Los Angeles where he wrote for television shows including MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” and he was working as executive story editor on the upcoming NBC science fiction series “Believe,” created by director Alfonso Cuarón, with J.J. Abrams as an executive producer.


Vizzini was also collaborating with writer and director Chris Columbus on the “House of Secrets” fantasy series of books. “He was the perfect collaborator, with a brilliant imagination and a sharp sense of humor,” Columbus said in an email Friday. “I’ve spent nearly every day over the past two years working closely with him, and I can’t fathom a world without him.”

Ned Vizzini was born on April 4, 1981, in New York. In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife, Sabra, and their son.

Vizzini was still a teenager when he drew the attention of New York literary circles. At 15 he began writing humorous essays about high school life for the New York Press, an alternative weekly. That led to an invitation, at 17, to write for the New York Times Magazine.

His piece for that publication, “Teen Angst? Naaah...,” also appeared in a collection of his essays published when he was 19.

But his early successes were little comfort. Shortly after his 2004 novel, “Be More Chill,” was published to positive reviews and nationwide exposure — including an appearance on the “Today” show — Vizzini checked himself in to a psychiatric ward at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn.

“Everybody thinks that after you make it as an author, you’re set for life,” he said in a 2006 interview with the Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch. “But I had plenty of concerns about what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

“And there’s always pressure to do the next thing and to always be better.”

Vizzini spun his hospital experience into his next novel, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” (2006), much of which takes place in a psychiatric ward. The main character is an overachieving 15-year-old who fumbles an attempt at suicide. On his website, Vizzini said the book was “85% based on my real life.”

It also got great notices, including in the Los Angeles Times, where Susan Carpenter said that the author’s “sense of pacing, structure and character is solid, and his casual vernacular is dead-on, simultaneously capturing the paranoia and self-obsessed negativity of depression.”

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” was made into a 2010 movie featuring Zach Galifianakis.

Vizzini spoke at colleges and other venues about his depression, urging people to recognize signs of the disease as they went about their hectic lives. “There are so few things that can really kill you in this world,” he told students at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Canada, in a video posted on his site. “But one of the things that can is stress.”

Bestselling author Margaret Stohl, who co-wrote the “Beautiful Creatures” series of novels, said Vizzini’s openness about his life was important to her and her daughter, who also battled depression. “What I admire about Ned is that he never backed away from the conversation,” Stohl said Friday. “For a guy with ‘big feelings,’ it might have been the easier thing to do.

“But Ned Vizzini showed up when no one else did.”

Times staff writer Joy Press contributed to this report.