Unravelling celebrity suicide

Dr Gargi Sinha

June 21, 2020, 14:06:52   

Death of a celebrity by suicide usually sparks overwhelming reaction from public and media. Suicide is a leading cause of death among young adults across the globe. World Health Organisation global report states that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds. News of celebrity suicide can be quite perplexing for people from all walks of life. A star's death by suicide often prompts a blame game in our society. Whenever a piece of news circulated about celebrity suicide, people usually try to analyse the situation from outer dimensions such as work, relationshipand lifestyle. In other words, as a society, we often overemphasis on various external factors that are potentially instigating the act of suicide.

In the process of the blame game, we end up in overlooking the illness component of the act of suicide that is a major depressive disorder. 

Unfortunately, our social construct often portrays suicide as a synonym of a 'weak character'. Consequently, illness depression usually masqueraded by the flawless public façade of our celebrities. One of the critical problems for depression is that clinically depressed people appear apparently normal from their external appearance; however, entirely broken internally. Like other medical illnesses, depression has different grades, such as mild, moderate, and severe. When depression leads to a severe degree, it can affect people's judgement and decision-making capacity. Depression can make a person's view about his /her future quite bleak despite evidence on the contrary. Thus, severe depression can be life-threatening for an individual as they can take the dreadful pathway of ending their life. When someone uses some violent methods to commit suicide, such as hanging, jumping off the high-rise building, they are most likely suffering from an unrecognised severe degree of major depression. Despite being a concerning health condition, depression can be cured with medication and talking therapies.

Finland has a great deal of reputation for studying the cause of suicide. They named their landmark suicide research initiative as 'Psychological Autopsy'. In this research, they conducted the psychological autopsy of all suicidees, approximately 1400 cases, in 1987-88. The researcher collected the data about suicidees from their family, friends, and medical records retrospectively. They found that major depression was present in more than 90% of cases, and many of them had associated substance use problems. Unfortunately, many of those cases did not come into medical attention.

There is a large body of evidence that depression is a prime cause of death by suicide. Additionally, socio-cultural factors also play a role as a determinant of suicide due to the rapidly changing society driven by modernisation. Gone are the times when professional and personal life was well demarcated. People could perhaps recollect that in olden days they used to have a close circle of friends outside their professional arena and having a deeper connection with their family. Those close associates were there to give them a warm shoulder during their life crisis. They would never feel like being judged by their close friends. However, the time has changed. There are different ways of making friends, such as social media. People are under constant pressure to present their best in various social platforms. Everything needs to be perfect, the materialistic achievement is the only yardstick, and there is no room for discussing their low times and tension in life. Worldly success creates a sense of stardom in the celebrity and portrays a-larger-than-life personality at the cost of their cultural roots and small-town past. Fortunately, our cultural origin and small-town experience makes us unique as a person and form the foundation of our value system. It creates an incredible psychological dilemma when people try to compartmentalise their deeply ingrained cultural values to make them more compatible with their new identity as a star.

The 'dream merchants' of our community provides young generation with the blueprint of success. In those blueprints, they promise to create an exact clone of previously successful people. Naturally, newcomers often compelled to unlearn all lessons from their past and blindly follow the artificial success trajectory of the Disney World. If they mistakenly deviate from the pre-decided artificial pathway of success, they receive the labelling of a loser, flop, or unfocused person. Sometimes there surrounds a fear, the fear of rejection and reputation loss. The sense of being humiliated by peers can be enough to drive an individual into the psychological dark zone. Our generation must take pride that they are performing in the volatile world. Dreams are not a unidirectional road or destination; Dreams are instead a flexible journey that needs to be enjoyed and cherished all along the pathway to success.  


Dr Gargi Sinha    

MBBS (Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi), PGDACP(India),   

Grad Dip Public Health (Edith Cowan University, Western Australia)   

Member of Australian Health Promotion Association  

Member of Australian Integrative Medicine    

Visiting Consultant, Sinha Medical Acupuncture Research Centre, New Delhi India    

Public Health Researcher (Drug and addictive behaviour)   

School of Medical and Health Sciences   

Edith Cowan University, Western Australia 

Email: Phone: +61 8 94458181 

Author of health sociology blog 

Author of educational resources on public health 

Co-founder, Strategies of addiction for north east  


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