Todd Tongen was one of Miami’s most well-known and beloved news anchors. He was a longtime journalist who worked for Miami ABC affiliate WPLG. On Wednesday, the network announced the tragic news that Tongen, at only 56-years-old, had died. He had taken his own life while his wife and younger son were out of town for a vacation in Italy. When his wife wasn’t getting any response to her texts or calls, she called the police to ask them to check on him, according to Today.
The news anchor’s brother, Dr. Scott Tongen, believes that there was more going on in this situation than just depression. He thinks that his brother had an undiagnosed medical condition that he was concerned about, known as Lewy body dementia. Their own mother passed away from this same condition in 2017. If Tongen thought he was losing his memory, he would have likely been terrified at the thought of the condition worsening. This could explain why someone who did not appear to be depressed would have made a decision such as this one.
Tongen’s brother did not know him to be depressed, and said that the two were planning a trip to Las Vegas in the near future.
“I’m convinced that he thought he had it. Whether there was conclusive evidence or not, I think he thought he had it, and that may have been enough. I don’t really think he was thinking about ending his life, as far as I know. But there was clearly something that was bothering him. 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.”
When @toddtongen walked in the door to @local10news in 1989, we became the best of friends. He called me “Linguine” & he was “ToddyT” . I was a TV rookie and he was my cheerleader. He was hysterically funny – smart as hell- a loyal family man-simply wonderful. Such a loss ????. pic.twitter.com/A1j65Me6Mm
— Lisa Petrillo (@LisaPetrillo) June 3, 2019
There has been a lot more public discussion about Lewy body dementia in the wake of comedian Robin Williams’ death by suicide in 2014. Williams’ widow claimed that he had been suffering from the condition prior to his death. It is believed that this condition, along with other health problems and depression, likely led the comedian to take his own life.
Tongen leaves behind his wife Karen, and his sons Tyler and Ryker.
In a statement, WPLG spoke of the way Tongen cheered up everyone in his presence.
“He was an incredible person. He lit up the room with his warm personality,” the affiliate wrote.
Several of Tongen’s co-anchors also shared their own stories about him on social media and recalled the positive ways in which he impacted their lives.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.