When a person commits suicide, the effects ripple through the entire community, affecting direct family and friends, their family and friends, and so on. When a celebrity makes this choice, the effects can be far-reaching. Part of this impact is the contagion effect: when people who have been contemplating suicide suddenly start to hear about it everywhere, it can push them over the edge. In these times, it is critically important to pay attention to the way we talk about suicide.
It can be tempting to fixate on the seeming inevitability of suicide, pointing to the seeming perfection of the victim’s life, their wealth, their career and social success, etc. If this famous celebrity couldn’t find happiness, what chance do we regular people have?
Instead, let’s turn our attention to the stories that aren’t so newsworthy. Let’s think of and celebrate those who have survived attempts and found a profound new appreciation for life, or those who brushed with suicidal thinking and depression but found their way back into the light.
We can never know the numbers of those who think about suicide but don’t take action, who get into treatment and find successful ways to manage or even overcome their conditions. Theirs are stories of true resilience, and there must be far more untold stories such as these than the number of completed attempts. Let’s celebrate those who overcame depression and went on to build meaningful lives and contributions.
Let’s use these recent events as reminders to be kind to one another as well, to remember that no matter how shiny and fun our friends’ lives look on social media, how well their careers seem to be going, we may not be getting the full story. Comparing our lives to others’ social media pages is a recipe for unhappiness.
Suicide is not an inevitability. The causes of suicide are diverse and not always easy to decipher, but there is hope. When we extend compassion and acceptance towards the parts of ourselves that struggle with dark feelings, rather than shoving them away, we can open up space to soothe and hold those feelings, letting them loosen rather than constrict.
Let’s remember that we’re all doing the best that we can, and sometimes we all need support. If you or someone you love has been struggling with depression or painful life changes, get help. You deserve compassion and care. You are not alone, and you do not have to weather the storm alone.