Opinion: Why Do Famous People Commit Suicide?
By on August 20th, 2012

The headline reads “Official: British director Tony Scott dead after jumping from California bridge“. The former ‘Top Gun’ director who seemingly had everything going for him was witnessed jumping off a California bridge “without hesitation”, according to a witness on the scene. When I hear news like this, I think to myself, “Why?” Wasn’t it last week that I read about “Real World” star, Joey Kovar, who died at age 29 from apparent drug overdose? Though his wasn’t ruled a suicide, it seemed to me to be a senseless death for someone with so much potential. If you’re like me, you may wonder, “why do famous people commit suicide?” It is easy to over-think this question I believe, because these people are famous and we think that somehow whatever drove them to fame would keep them immune from the ills of the common man. However, this simply isn’t true. Humans are humans no matter what social status they aspire to. I think whatever causes the famous to commit suicide are very much the same factors that drive any person to do the same.

Tony Scott

‘Top Gun’ Director Tony Scott

Don’t get me wrong, I understand with fame and fortune also comes a lot of pressure. Let’s face it, most famous people are very driven, hard working people. I think a lot of the pressure these celebrities endure comes from within. Without oversimplifying the issue, I believe a lot of celebrities find that life’s troubles are still waiting there for them to deal with even when they reach the top. They try to fill the void in their hearts with high society, drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex, all of which are temporary highs. Others I believe, reach a point where they feel like they’ve done about all they can do. Their whole identity as a person is wrapped up in their fame and when the applause fades so does their desire to live in this world. It is so tragic that these bright and shining stars who possess great ability would choose to end their life. However, when I look at them in the context of all humanity, they really exhibit characteristics that you would find in all of us common folk. I have a saying, “Money makes you more of what you are”. This is just my personal belief, but I believe the evidence is there to support it. Money on its own doesn’t save people. To me, it seems to act as a multiplier. If a person is a wreckless jerk, then they will be a rich wreckless jerk with money.

Prevalence of Suicide

The National Institute of Mental Health website displays a staggering statistic regarding suicide in the U.S. Pictured below, you will see that in the year 2007, suicide ranked number 4 in the top 10 causes of death in the U.S.

Suicide 2007

I found this statistic quite shocking. I never would have dreamed that there are more suicides in the U.S. than stroke victims or homicides. This tells me we have a serious issue in our country that isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

Alex Lickerman, MD posted on KevinMD.com, 6 reasons people commit suicide. I will outline his reasons below with some of my thoughts mixed in the descriptions.

    • They’re depressed – Depression is a disease. It is a treatable disease. This is where I will get very personal with you. I suffered untreated major depression for nearly 16 years because of several factors. One was the “stigma” associated with mental illness. I also felt like psychology and psychiatry were kind of a quack science and I really didn’t trust the system. As one who finally gave in and spoke to my doctor about my depression, I have to say I could kick myself for waiting so long. Family doctors are not perfect, nor are psychiatrists for that matter, but I will say the benefits of getting treated outweigh the frustrations you may face with doctors. Get treated and FIGHT FOR YOURSELF!
    • They’re psychotic – Schizophrenia is often misunderstood and affects about 1% of the population worldwide. People with schizophrenia often hear inner voices that urge them to hurt themselves or others. This is a treatable disease as well, but can have severe consequences if untreated.
  • They’re impulsive – Dr. Lickerman associates this mostly with drugs and alcohol. Under heavy influence, people may try to end their lives. They often feel remorse when they are no longer under the influence. In this case he recommends the substance abuse be treated aggressively.
  • They’re crying out for help, and don’t know how else to get it – This is one of the saddest examples he cites. These are the folks who take a bottle of pills they think are harmless in the hopes of getting attention. He gave an example of how teenagers would take a bottle of Tylenol not realizing that it would have irreversible damage to the liver.
  • They have a philosophical desire to die – He describes these folks as those facing a painful terminal illness who wish to take control of their own destiny. This present one of the biggest moral dilemmas as there are those who feel they should have a right to die. This could be an opinion piece all its own. While I am not callous to the plight of those suffering from terminal illness, I have to say that I believe what this world often considers to be a valuable life is a little skewed. There are those who desire to end their life because they don’t feel productive. I think a lot of this is due to the pressure that we put on ourselves and how we define being a valuable member of society. I believe life should be held sacred.
  • They’ve made a mistake – And who hasn’t made a mistake? For some people however, they take it to the extreme. He points out the recent trend of young people depriving themselves of oxygen to get high. Sometimes they take it to far and they die from the act. I am not sure about this last point. I would consider it flirting with death, but it is definitely not intended suicide in most cases. However, I do believe it is rooted is some of the same triggers of suicide such as loneliness, lost sense of purpose, etc… They are trying to fill the void with a thrill.

The Fight of Your Life

I believe that all life is precious and that our society has placed too much emphasis on fortune and fame. I grew up pretty poor and I remember actually having to go to an outhouse to go to the bathroom. I remember as a child living in a 2 room house. I had a kitchen and a living room/bedroom. Now I have more money than I did back then, but happiness seems to be more elusive now than ever. You see, the quest for a meaningful life is more than the desires of self. The famous have often fallen into the trap of self and they realize that it really is lonely at the top. What’s crazy is our society’s inability to see how miserable and fake this lifestyle really is.

So what do you do if you find yourself in this miserable trap? Get help! Though I care very much about people, I would never recommend you listen just to me. Please find a qualified counselor who will fight for your life! Your life is valuable and you need to fight for it. If you are depressed, see a doctor. Everyone has down days, but those days shouldn’t turn into weeks, months, or years. If you suspect someone is depressed or suicidal, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a great website for knowing the signs. If you need help, you can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

As one who has been through depression, I know how humiliating and silly it feels to have to take that first step and reach out. Very often depression is irrational and you will want to question yourself why you feel that way. Get over it! Depression is a disease that needs treatment, just like a cut on your arm or a cancer. Reach out and keep reaching until you get the help you need. Yours is a life worth living, fight for it!

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Author: Darrin Jenkins Google Profile for Darrin Jenkins
Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Darrin Jenkins has written and can be contacted at darrin@techie-buzz.com.

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