But, in a culture where recreational sex is fast becoming the norm for young adults, tragic deaths like Heath’s (even when the cause is murky) should be a wake-up call. Conventional wisdom tells young people that casual sex is meaningless. Heath’s depression following the break-up of his relationship with Michelle Williams is just one example of the fact that not even sexy hunks are exempt from broken hearts. Heath and Michelle fell in love at first sight on the set of the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” A reporter who covered Heath extensively said that he stood in “awe of [Heath’s] devotion and attention to [Michelle]. Everyone agrees that Heath was devoted to his “two girls;” but that their later arguments over his drug use were “quite nasty.”
Another wake-up call from the culture is Heath’s statement that he felt like he had lived out of a suitcase ever since his parents divorced when he was 10 years old. In spite of chldren’s supposed resilience, divorce leaves predictable negative outcomes and father-absence leaves a vacume that is virtually impossible to fill. Heath talked openly about his difficulty in dealing with his parents’ divorce; he felt close to both his parents and blamed himself. He said that getting into acting helped him deal with his dark emotions after his parents’ divorce.
None of these things alone, of course, led to Heath’s death, but combined they were obviously a factor in his deep depression and his life spiraling out of control. We do a disservice to young people when we promote the myth that sex is meaningless and shrug off the impact of divorce on children.