The Impact of Celebrities’ Suicides and What We Can Do to Decrease the Suicide Rate

Many people suffer from depression including celebrities.  According to July 20, 2017, The Mercury News article, “Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and America’s suicide crisis,” the American Foundation for Suicide and Prevention said, “Every day, an estimated 121 people take their own lives with suicide being the 10th leading cause of death.”

Celebrities’ suicides may affect not only their loved ones, but countless fans who looked up to them.  Two celebrities who have died by suicide are Kurt Cobain, singer of Nirvana, and Chester Bennington, singer of Linkin Park.  It can be sad for anyone when they find out a celebrity has died from suicide.  However, it can be even harder on fans who are already experiencing depression.

Chester Bennington’s suicide was hard on 20-year-old Emma Searing.  “Well, I found out about a day later and I just remember my stomach dropping.  He was one of my idols when I was younger and I couldn’t help but feel a deep personal loss when I heard.  I definitely walked around in a slump for a few days.  The world lost a talented musician and his family lost a wonderful man,” said Searing, who suffers from depression.

According to July 20th, 2017, Newsweek article, “After Chester Bennington’s Death, Suicide Experts Fear a Contagion Effect,” When a celebrity commits suicide, it may influence fans who are depressed to take their own lives as well.  Jill Harkvay-Freidman, vice-president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said “It can also trigger suicidal feelings in someone who maybe was suicidal in the past.”

This may be partly due to the fact that people suffering from depression “relate to that celebrity and connect to that celebrity’s struggles.  It could cause them to feel like they’re in that person’s shoes and that that is them,” said Piedmont College’s counselor, Evonne Jones.  She later adds that it may make the fan think, “If they couldn’t cope, I don’t have the strength to cope either.”

Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide affected many people, including Piedmont College mass communications professor, Dr. Joe Dennis. “Kurt Cobain was someone I felt I could relate to when I was in high school.  Like Kurt, I felt all alone and isolated from society, and when he killed himself, I couldn’t help but wonder if I should do the same,” said Dennis who suffers from clinical depression.

According to January 17, 2018, Metro.co.uk article, “Man killed himself after Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington’s suicide”, Lee Randal, 36-year-old who lived in Werneth Low, near Stockport, Greater Manchester, was also affected by Chester Bennington’s suicide and had committed suicide after Bennington did.  Lee Randal suffered from bulimia and was having problems with his wife.  He told his wife he was going to take a shower and go to bed, but he ended up committing suicide instead.

The way the celebrity’s suicide is reported in the media can definitely affect the impact on people who have depression.  This can even affect the suicide rate.  When Kurt Cobain died, the media covered his suicide with care, which contributed to the decrease of suicide rates in Seattle and Australia.

According a April 4th, 2014, Newsweek article, “Did Kurt Cobain’s Death Lower The Suicide Rate in 1994?,” The medical community gave instructions on how to report celebrity suicides.

“It was a proud moment for the media,” said psychology professor, David A. Jobes in the article.  “It was the first time in my memory that journalists who were covering a very high-profile celebrity suicide really did what the research community wanted them to do all along.  It was the first widespread use… of warnings signs and hotline numbers and things that now are sort of matter-of-fact.”

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to tell when loved ones are depressed and suicidal.  In RollingStone Magazine, Talinda Bennington, the widow of Chester Bennington, said that Chester Bennington seemed happy and he was playing and eating jellybeans with his family.

Evonne Jones says that the person who is about to commit suicide may feel happy shortly before they are about to commit suicide “because they’ve come to a point where they’ve accepted the fact that they are going to kill themselves at they are at peace with that.”

“They’ve come to terms with the fact that they are about to take their lives and they feel like well ok this is it,” says Evonne Jones.  “This is what I’m going to do.  This is going to help me.  This is going to end it all.  This is going to end the pain.  They’re doing whatever they need to do at the moment, spending time with their closest family and friends, saying their goodbyes, saying thank you in their own way before they actually take the side to attempt.”

It’s important to recognize the signs of someone who’s suicidal.  According to the Harvard Health Blog, some signs that a person might be suicidal are “talking about suicide, trying to access things that they can kill themselves with, feeling hopeless, feeling worthless and guilty, giving away prized posessions, and saying goodbye.”

“I’m hoping to start QPR and mental health first aid to students, faculty, and staff on campus so everyone can have more of a trained eye,” says Evonne Jones.  If we suspect that someone’s suicidal it’s important that we be direct with them and ask, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

Jones said, if people become depressed or suicidal by celebrities’ suicides, they should “reach out and get help, see a psychiatrist, participate in talk therapy, go out into nature and get in touch with their spiritual side and talk honestly with their friends and loved ones about what they’re feeling and what they’re going through.”

Suicides can affect thousands of people, but by recognizing the signs before the person commits suicide, having the media portray celebrities’ suicides in a constructive way, and reaching out to get help, we have the power to decrease suicide rates.

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