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Do Celebrity Suicides Cause an Increase in Suicides in the General Population?

Image of a man with bowed head for our FAQ on celebrity suicides

Just this past week, we lost two very prominent celebrity figures. One was Kate Spade, an extremely gifted designer of handbags who eventually expanded her designs to clothing and accessories; inspiring many. The second was Anthony Bourdain, a brilliant writer, chef, and correspondent who brought different cultures of the world right into our very own homes without us ever having to leave. These two losses, among many of the other celebrity suicides that our country has experienced in recent years, brings to light the mental health issue that our country is currently facing. The unfortunate thing that happens is that when a celebrity or person of fame decides to end their life unexpectedly, there is a temporary increase in suicide cases among the general population. These ‘copycat’ cases do eventually decrease, but in general, suicide is on the rise in the United States and something needs to be done.

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What Causes the Copycat Effect?

There is a dilemma that journalists and news agencies face when a celebrity commits suicide. They can cover the story as a way to inform the public and honor a person’s life. They can also choose to cover the story very briefly and move away from the story on to something else. They often choose to move on from the story, not because they don’t want to pay tribute to one of the greats of our society, but because the report of suicide may lead to other people choosing to kill themselves in the same manner. Why does this happen? There are a number of psychological reasons why. Essentially, some people will see the suicide as something glamorous that gained attention from a media standpoint. They want to see that kind of attention too, and they choose to end their lives in the same way. Other times, they were a great admirer of the person who passed and it seems like a fitting tribute to end their life the same way, in close proximity to that day the suicide occurred.

How Can We Prevent An Increase In Suicide?

One of the unfortunate truths about our society is that we choose not to speak about suicide, as reported by Fortune. Yes, sometimes it is to prevent a copycat occurrence, but many times it is because people don’t know the proper way to bring it up. A friend or family member may be acting strangely for a few days, and it seems uncomfortable to ask if they are ok. Or, it might just not seem like a safe thing to do. It is important for the United States to shed light on mental health concerns. This is a way to bring it up in a conversation and people will know how to help those who are suffering. It has been reported by a number of sources that Anthony Bourdain was in a ‘dark mood’ for a few days prior to his suicide. What if someone had asked him if he was ok, or tried to get him help? Things may have played out differently.

Suicide is something that occurs each day, as people decide the pain of their depression or anxiety is too much to bear. Those who have not succeeded in their attempts realize later on with help, that they are grateful they have been given another chance. There is hope for those that are suffering and there are plenty of resources that are available to help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number is 1-800-273-8255 and can be used any time of day or night for someone who needs assistance and doesn’t know where to turn.