A Miami news anchor who died in early June killed himself because he feared he had dementia.
Todd Tongen, 56, was found dead in his house in Pembroke Park on June 3. His cause of death was a suicide, WLPG, the station where he worked, confirmed on June 5.
“I don’t really think he was thinking about ending his life, as far as I know,” Tongen’s brother, Dr. Scott Tongen, told the station, adding that his brother was planning to travel to Las Vegas and Canada.
“But there was clearly something that was bothering him,” he said.
“He left some garbled messages that we haven’t seen yet, but there was a simple note that said he was lost and to forgive him,” the doctor said.
Dr. Tongen said he thinks his brother was in fear of Lewy Body Dementia, a disease that killed their mother in August 2017.
“I’m convinced that he thought he had it,” Dr. Tongen told WLPG, noting that his brother had been experiencing issues with his balance that were similar to issues their mother had at the onset of the disease. “Whether there was conclusive evidence or not, I think he thought he had it, and that may have been enough.”
The station said Tongen’s family was asking people to donate to the Lewy Body Dementia Association in memory of him.
View this post on Instagram
“The Lewy Body Dementia Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of, supporting people with and promoting scientific advances of Lewy Body Dementia,” it stated.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Lewy Body Dementia is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease dementia, caused by protein deposits, or Lewy bodies, developing in nerve cells in the brain.
“Lewy body dementia causes a progressive decline in mental abilities. People with Lewy body dementia may experience visual hallucinations and changes in alertness and attention. Other effects include Parkinson’s disease-like signs and symptoms such as rigid muscles, slow movement, and tremors,” it stated.
Symptoms include movement disorders such as difficulty walking, cognitive problems such as poor attention, and sleep difficulties. As the disease progresses, it causes severe dementia, aggressive behavior, depression, and an increased risk of falling and injury.
On average, people die about eight years after symptoms start cropping up.
Manner of death involving Local 10’s Todd Tongen revealed https://t.co/RMxs8d2R3A
— Jeff Martin (@JeffMartinMedia) June 5, 2019
After the cause of death was revealed, WLPG President and CEO Bert Medina released a statement.
“We are shocked and saddened by the death of Todd Tongen, but we are choosing to remember how he lived,” he said.
“Todd was an incredibly talented journalist. He spent 30 years at WPLG telling the stories of the people in our community and giving so much of himself to this community. He was an incredible person. He lit up the room with his warm personality.
“As hard as it is, our news team is reporting on the circumstance of Todd’s death,” Medina added. “We will report on this painful subject of suicide and mental health and perhaps we can help one person out there who is struggling. We miss Todd terribly. Our staff is suffering, but I commend them for how they’ve handled this situation with grace, strength, and professionalism.”
“We are all hurting at the loss of our very unique and treasured friend,” added Neki Mohan, Tongen’s co-anchor on weekend mornings. “Todd was the foundation of this newsroom. He will never be replaced. I choose not to focus on how he died, but how he lived. My memories of our 10 years together will forever light up my life. I want to support his family in this awful time. He loved them so much. Rest in peace, my friend.”
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or needs someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.