"You think love has the answer, but mental illness has no say," Rosie O'Donnell said of her late ex-wife's death

By Aurelie Corinthios
October 10, 2017 02:37 PM
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Rosie O’Donnell has spoken out about her late ex-wife Michelle Rounds, who died last month of apparent suicide at age 46.

At Monday’s premiere for her new Showtime series, SMILF — her first public appearance since the news brokeRosie told Extra that Rounds’ death was “very sad, very tragic.”

The 55-year-old comedian, who shares a daughter, 4-year-old Dakota, with Rounds, also addressed her ex-wife’s hospitalization in September 2015 for an apparent overdose, alluding to it as a suicide attempt.

“It was not the first time,” she said. “There was a time in September 2015. You think love has the answer. But mental illness has no say.”

Rosie and Rounds wed quietly in June 2012 at their home in Nyack, New York. The comedian filed for divorce from Rounds in February 2015, and they battled for custody of Dakota after Rounds filed for sole custody in April. The exes reached a settlement in October, and the divorce was finalized in March 2016.

Rounds’ was found dead on the morning of Sept. 11.

“I am saddened to hear about this terrible tragedy,” Rosie told PEOPLE in a statement. “Mental illness is a very serious issue affecting many families. My thoughts and prayers go out to Michelle’s family, her wife and their child.”

Rosie O’Donnell and Michelle Rounds
| Credit: Walter McBride/WireImage

Rounds’ autopsy was completed Sept. 12, though at the time a spokesperson for the Orange County Medical Examiner’s office in Florida told PEOPLE that the doctor was waiting to determine the cause of death until further laboratory results are received. The spokesperson added that there was no trauma to Rounds’ body.

According to a statement obtained by The Blast from the District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office on Sept. 28, Rounds was found at her home in bed with prescription pill bottles nearby.

Suicide has not been ruled out as a cause of death, and additional toxicology tests are underway.

At the premiere Monday night, O’Donnell also opened up about her ongoing estrangement from her 20-year-old daughter Chelsea, whom she shares with her ex-wife Kelli Carpenter.

“She’s married now and on her own,” said Rosie of Chelsea, who is expecting a child with Nicholas Alliegro, a 31-year-old plumber whom she secretly wed in July 2016. (When Chelsea ran away from home in 2015, O’Donnell said she suffered from mental illness, which Chelsea denied.)

“But it was very difficult to find the help that she needed,” she continued. “I know for me — I suffer from major depressive disorder — in 1999, after [the Columbine high school massacre], I went on medication and I’ve been on it ever since. For me, it works in my life. It’s been a life jacket at times when I felt like swimming down, so for me, it’s something that we have to take the stigma away from.”

Rosie O’Donnell and Chelsea O’Donnell
| Credit: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Chelsea — who has long had a strained relationship with her mother — told the Daily Maill last month that Rosie will not a part of her child’s life: “And no, I do not feel sad about that, to be honest,” she added.

“It’s very exciting, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Chelsea, who is due in May 2018. “I really don’t care if I have a boy or a girl, I’m just hoping for a healthy baby. Nick would really like a boy. But as far as I am concerned, so long as it’s healthy, that’s what matters.”