Actress appeals to Hollywood not to glamourise addiction

US actress turned wellness guru Mariel Hemingway, whose illustrious family has been deeply scarred by suicide, appealed to Hollywood on Thursday not to glamourise addiction.

"I think there is a responsibility in Hollywood to not glamourise addictions and others things that are causes of problems," the 51-year-old star of Woody Allen's 1979 rom-com "Manhattan" told reporters in Washington.

She was in the US capital for the AFI Docs festival screening of "Running from Crazy," director Barbara Kopple's documentary about the Hemingway family's struggle with substance abuse, mental illness and suicide.

Seven members of the Hemingway family have taken their own lives, most famously novelist Ernest Hemingway and model Margaux Hemingway, who was Mariel Hemingway's sister.

"Yes, I think there was a (family) curse," said Hemingway, a mother of two who lives outside San Francisco, teaches yoga and writes books about holistic living.

"But I honestly believe that by making this film, and because of how I live my life, I don't feel I have a curse anymore," she said.

She disagreed with those who suggest that mental illness is genetic, saying: "You have to look at all the factors."

"Everybody that committed suicide in my family, at least, were addicts. They were trying to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. All these things are very complicated," she told AFP.

"That's why I chose to live a lifestyle that I know supports my balance and well-being."

According to the Centers for Disease Control data, the number of suicides among Americans aged 35 to 64 -- a segment that includes many baby boomers -- has risen 28 per cent in the last decade.

In 2010 the number of suicides (38,364) overtook the number of traffic fatalities (33,687).

Kelly Posner, founder of the Center for Suicide Risk Assessment, said 90 per cent of those who die by suicide had an underlying mental illness, most often depression.

"Unfortunately, most of the people who need treatment do not get it," she said.