Russell Armstrong, estranged husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Taylor Armstrong committed suicide Monday, August 15. Taylor apparently found Russell after he failed to show for a meeting.
E! Online reports that Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter has confirmed that the official cause of death for the 47-year-old was suicide by hanging. Russell and Taylor's contentious relationship was a focus of the first season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Although previews for the upcoming season show Taylor saying she and Russell are seeking couples therapy, Taylor actually filed for divorce a month ago, alleging verbal and physical abuse.
Russell, who made millions on tech stocks before declaring bankruptcy in 2005, had recently been sued by MyMedicalRecords.com, which alleges that the Armstrongs embezzled 1.5 million by pretending to be venture capitalists investing in the internet company.
Bravo has officially expressed sadness and sympathy for Armstrong and her family. Although the show was originally scheduled to premier September 5th, it's unclear whether the date will be altered or if the premier will be re-shot to acknowledge the tragedy.
Despite the obvious stress Armstrong was under because of the lawsuit, divorce and financial problems, some critics are also asking, "Did The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills play a role in Russell's suicide?"
People close to the couple say that while Taylor loved being on the Bravo reality show, Russell didn't. Furthermore, he didn't appreciate the invasion into their privacy and he felt the show added stress to their marriage.
Of course, this isn't the first suicide linked to reality TV. In 2009 The Wrap reported that an investigation had uncovered eleven suicides by former reality TV contestants.
Does reality TV push people to suicide?
Probably not on its own. But when you take people who are already under extreme stress and then you subject them to intense scrutiny and the constant presence of cameras (not to mention camera crews) and the subtle manipulations of producers (who have an inherent interest in promoting conflict not harmony) it's not surprising those elements push some people over the edge.
What do you think? Does being on a reality show cause people to go crazy, get divorced or kill themselves? Should reality shows provide psychological evaluation before cast members come on--or provide counseling afterward? Take our poll and share your comments below.
Photo © Bravo