How suicide is reported, talked about, and portrayed in the media has great influence, especially on those who are vulnerable.
If you are a survivor of a loved one who died by suicide, you may be wondering if there is someone amiss in the world that is making this type of death somehow attractive or glamorous. If these types of thoughts have crossed your mind since the death of your loved one, you are not alone. The idea of the glamorization of suicide has become something that is now widely discussed among health care professionals and witnesses by many individuals who mourn the loss of a family member, friend, or other person in their lives. As you work through your own grief associated with suicide death of a loved one, you may benefit from learning a bit more about the glamorization of suicide in the late-20th and now in the 21st century.
There are a number of different components that give rise to the concept and what has become the reality of glamorization of suicide:
- Media coverage of suicide
- Ubiquitous nature of social media
- Societal obsession with fame
Media Coverage of Suicide
Media coverage has contributed to the glamorization of suicide. For some years, media outlets delved quite deeply into the specifics of a particular death by suicide that was drawing press attention – typically the suicide death of a famous person.
Research has demonstrated that the nature of this type of media coverage created or at least contributed to what has now become known as suicide contagion. Suicide contagion is the term now applied to people who contemplate suicide after someone near to them does so or after a famous person dies by suicide. Some of these people do end up dying by suicide. This scenario is also called cluster suicides.
The press is being encouraged to reconsider the manner in which they report on deaths by suicide. For example, members of media are being asked to avoid talking about such things as the specific way a suicide death occurred. Reporting can make note of how a person died. But delving unduly deeper is unnecessary.
Social Media and Suicide
Traditional media historically has ended up glamorizing suicide to some degree. Social media has been frighteningly corrosive in this regard. There have been many, many cases involving death by suicide in which the person who died in this manner seemed to have had ideations that extended in part from what was seen on social media.
Although traditional media has significantly rethought the manner in which it reports and discusses celebrity suicide deaths, the same cannot really be said of social media at this juncture in time. This does not mean change doesn’t need to occur in the world of social media. It does. But, such an evolution is going to take persistence by those who want to make such a change in the social media space.
Fame is a vapor …
– Horace Greeley
Creating a comprehensive list of the names of celebrities and other famous people who have died by suicide would be a herculean if not impossible task. We provide a handful of names of different famous folks from different walks of life who died by suicide:
- Robin Williams
- Kate Spade
- Anthony Bourdain
- Naomi Judd
- Ernest Hemingway
- Margaux Hemingway
We live in what fairly can be described as a celebrity obsessed culture. For example, hundreds of thousands of people follow social media influencers who oftentimes are famous simply for being famous. Of course, actors, musicians, sports figures, and the like are also famous folks that attract ardent followers.
People have long made decisions in their own lives based on what celebrities say or do. Even some of the less productive things celebrities say or do can become follow-fodder for people who pay attention or even idolized these famous individuals.
Celebrities have had an impact of deaths by suicide and the aftermath of these types of live-ending events. One area in which famous people have had an impact is proving helpful to survivors of suicide. The other is not a positive effect of the confluence of celebrities and suicide.
On the positive side of the equation, an increasing number of celebrities have come forward to the public at large by sharing their own experiences as survivors of suicide deaths of their own loved ones. The efforts of famous people to take this step has lessened the level of shame that has long and inappropriately been associated with suicide deaths in the United States and in some other countries around the world.
On the negative side of the equation, there is what some would call an unintended consequence to suicide death of a public figure. Yes, an unintended consequence, but a consequence that needs to be expected in this celebrity obsessed climate.
When a celebrity dies by suicide, the glamorization of that death can take hold in some circumstances and in the minds of some people. Everything from the media coverage to the social media ruminations can work to glamorize a particular celebrity death by suicide.
For a Survivor of a Loved One Who Died by Suicide
A survivor of a suicide death needs to recognize that celebrity suicide death is influential, in part for the reasons we discussed in this article. The things celebrities say and do impacts wide swaths of the public at large. This may have included your own loved one who is no longer with you. Celebrity can be a powerful persuader. You bear no responsibility for the manner in which celebrity and media influences may have impacted your loved one.