The death of a loved one is difficult for anyone to take, but famous suicides often cause a collective mourning across the country, as well as the world in cases of celebrities with international fame. Celebrities come into the home through movies, television, magazines, and smartphones, and they’re a source of entertainment and comfort to millions of people.
Suicide and Mental Illness
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicides claim the lives of approximately 30,000 lives every year in the United States, which equals around 1 percent of all the deaths that occur each year. People of all ethnic backgrounds and races are at risk for suicide, and both men and women are at risk.
Each time a celebrity commits suicide, discussions begin about mental illness and how even rich and famous people can fall victim to mental problems and suicide. Like people who don’t live their lives in the spotlight, celebrities may engage in substance abuse and addiction, which may increase the likelihood of suicide. Likewise, chronic illness, past traumas, and socially isolated individuals are at an increased risk of suicide.
Celebrity Suicides of the Past
The concept of celebrity today is incredibly different from the celebrities of 100 years ago and more because of things like television, social media, and the internet. Celebrities in the last century often included famous inventors, novelists, and scientists who were often famous because of stories in the newspaper, their inventions, or their novels.
One of the most famous suicides of a celebrity in the past century was that of Ernest Hemingway, who was found dead of a shotgun wound in July of 1961. Just short of his 62nd birthday, Hemingway wrote internationally famous books like “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and he also won a Pulitzer Prize, as well as a Nobel Prize.
According to an article in The New York Times, his wife insisted that Hemingway hadn’t committed suicide and that he accidentally shot himself when he was cleaning a 12-gauge shotgun.
Another infamous celebrity suicide of the past was painter Vincent Van Gogh’s suicide in 1890. After suffering from depression and hallucinations, Van Gogh reportedly shot himself in the chest. However, there were no witnesses to the act, and no information exists on the exact place where Van Gogh shot himself.
Today, Van Gogh’s works rank as some of the most expensive pieces of art in the entire world. Some of his paintings have sold for over $100 million each, and several other paintings have sold in the $50 million range.
Modern Celebrity Suicides
When a celebrity suicide hits social media today, the outpouring is often immediate and extensive. Since the year 2000, many beloved celebrities, talented performers, and famous names “behind the scenes” have committed suicide. In August of 2012, famous director and producer Tony Scott leaped from the Vincent Thomas Bridge into the Los Angeles Harbor and his significant injuries shortly resulted in drowning.
When the and autopsy information were released, Scott’s fans learned that the director had an anti-depressant called Remeron and a sleep aid called Lunesta in his system at the time of his death. Early rumors of terminal brain cancer turned out to be untrue, and doctors couldn’t find evidence that Scott was suffering from any long-term illnesses. When celebrities suicide, there isn’t always a clear cause, and Scott’s death was definitely a mystery.
Another recent suicide that shocked the world was the death of Robin Williams, which followed the beloved actor’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Although Williams’ disease was early onset, he’d already had serious conversations with friends about his condition. Fellow actor Billy Connolly told the New York Daily News that he’d had a very emotional conversation with Williams just a few weeks before Williams’ death.
The report from the coroner working on Williams’ autopsy revealed that the actor died of asphyxia due to hanging. According to a report made at the scene of the suicide, Robin hanged himself with a belt while inside his home in Northern California. His personal assistant found him around the middle of the day after the assistant became concerned that Williams didn’t answer a knock at his bedroom door.
Another shocking suicide that took most of his fans by complete surprise was that of Jonathan Brandis, who had a popular role in the 1990s television show SeaQuest. The popular actor committed suicide by hanging himself in 2003 when he was just 27. At the time of his death, Brandis joined a long list of celebrities who committed suicide or died accidentally at the age of 27 including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain.
Some of the other celebrities who committed suicide in the past several years include:
- Don Cornelius – Creator of “Soul Train,” he shot himself in the head in 2012 while in his home in Los Angeles.
- Mindy McCready – A popular American country music singer, she shot herself in 2013 after more than a decade without a hit song.
- Alexander McQueen – The British fashion designer committed suicide in 2010 shortly after the death of his beloved mother.
- Lee Thompson Young – An actor in the television series “Rizzoli & Isles,” he committed suicide in 2013 at the age of just 29.
Last Words of Suicidal Celebrities
Celebrities who commit suicide don’t always decide to tell the public or their families why they decided to take their lives. Robin Williams’ shocking suicide left the world without an explanation for his death as he left no note, and his friends, family, and fans were left to wonder about the exact reasons why the beloved actor took his life.
However, some celebrities who committed suicide did indeed leave the world with some words to explain their actions. Respected novelist Virginia Woolf, who committed suicide in 1941, left a suicide note that, according to the archives of the New York Times, said, “I cannot go on any longer in these terrible times. I hear voices and cannot concentrate on my work. I have fought against it but cannot fight any longer.”
Nirvana’s lead singer, Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide in 1994 at the height of his band’s popularity, left his wife Courtney and a daughter, Frances, when he shot himself inside a home in Seattle, Washington. According to a report from CBS News, police released a handwritten note that Cobain wrote some time before his death that mocked his marriage and accused Courtney of using his money for drugs.
Famous suicide notes often carry meaningful messages or interesting phrases, and the last words of famous journalist Hunter S. Thompson were actually published in Rolling Stone Magazine. Thompson wrote a suicide note called “Football Season is Over,” which was published and concluded with the sobering phrase, “Relax – This won’t hurt.”
Unsuccessful Celebrity Suicide Attempts
Many people attempt suicide and are unsuccessful, and the same may be said for famous celebrities. Some celebrity suicide attempts are quite surprising, while other attempts seem like they were just another pitfall in a long line of unfortunate events. Before the release of “The Real Slim Shady,” famous rapper Eminem reportedly tried to take his own life by overdosing on Tylenol. He was upset because his girlfriend left him and wouldn’t let him see his daughter.
Legendary singer Elton John also tried to commit suicide because of depression over the struggle to keep his sexuality a secret. Reports suggest that Elton’s friend, lyricist Bernie Taupin, found him with his head inside a gas stove in his apartment. Decades later, Elton found peace with his sexuality and entered into a civil partnership with David Furnish.
Another shocking celebrity suicide attempt came from legendary actor Clark Gable. Actress Carol Lombard, his beautiful wife, died in a plane crash, and Gable entered into a severe bout with depression after the event. He tried to end his life by driving a motorcycle at a high rate of speed, but he was unsuccessful.
Hollywood legend Judy Garland suffered from depression throughout her life and eventually overdosed on prescription drugs at the young age of 47. However, before she died, she’d already tried to commit suicide several times. While shooting a movie in the 1940s, she had a nervous breakdown and slit her wrists, but was found in time and placed in a psychiatric facility to recover.
Celebrities Are the Same as Everyone Else
Celebrities that committed suicide often suffered from the same physical ailments and mental health problems of the general public. Some celebrities crumble under the stress of fame, and this mirrors the suicides that happen because a regular person is stressed at work and can’t handle the pressure to remain successful.
Depression among creative people like actors, writers, and celebrities is shocking today because most people assume that famous people with a lot of money would never have any problems. Unfortunately, famous suicides continue to occur because issues like mental illness, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and depression, which can impact anyone’s life whether he or she is famous or not.