When the headlines broke that celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain took his own life just days after designer Kate Spade killed herself, and almost two months after Avicii ended his life, mental health experts raised concerns about a suicide contagionvibrating through America.
Last week, the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) spiked by more than 25 percentafter the latest round of celebrity deaths.
“When I heard about Bourdain, I was sad for him and for all the people who were going to hear about it, and I am also sad for people who might be influenced by it,” said Madelyn Gould, a professor of epidemiology in child psychiatry at Columbia University.
Gould, who has conducted extensive research on “suicide contagion” trends for years, said, “research has shown that the phenomenon is real and suggests that media coverage of celebrity deaths, in particular, can influence those who are vulnerable or at risk and can lead to a spike in suicide rates.”
“The deaths of two high-profile people by suicide this week has much more of an impact than less well-known individuals,” Gould said.
Whenever a celebrity commits suicide — a flood of calls normally hits the hotline, Director John Draper of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline told The Wall Street Journal. Draper said that the surge in calls started shortly after Kate Spade’s death, then peaked again during Bourdain’s death last week.” Calls jumped 25 percent in the two days after her death, compared with the same period the previous week,” Draper added.
Draper said that people often feel connected to celebrities, which there can be a “collective sense of loss that many people feel.”
Alan Ross, executive director of Samaritans suicide prevention center in New York, said the surge in calls that hotlines experince might not be a direct correlation of hearing about a celebrity’s death. In some cases, individuals who are already mentally unstable might have been triggered to seek help when the news of a celebrity death occurs.
“The random number of things that can stimulate people who are already likely to get worse is so varied,” he said. “When there is promotion and marketing and in some ways acceptance, yeah, it does drive people to reach out.”
The deaths of Bourdain and Spade came the same week the CDC published a shocking report that suicides across America have climbed 30 percent since 1999 — and is now the country’s tenth-leading cause of death. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans ten years old or older died by suicide, according to the CDC.
Suicide rates have increased in almost every state since 1999, with the exception of Nevada, which already maintained one of the highest rates in the country. Western and Midwestern states like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, and Oklahoma saw some of the most significant increases in rates.
“I have been learning as a nation we have seen increases and decreases over time in suicide,” said CDC principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat. “Increases mostly seem to correlate with economic downturns.”
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday asked the federal government for an increased spending bill for more suicide-prevention programs. Programs that have been “flat-funded include the Suicide Lifeline hotline, which has received $7 million annually since 2013”, he said. Schumer noted that a New Yorker dies by suicide every five hours.
The current trends in suicide rates across America have developed into a contagion sparked by the Dot Com bust and 2008 economic crisis — continuing to spread across the country like wildfire.
The latest round of celebrity suicides confirmed that many Americans dialed the hotline, as they also had thoughts about ending their lives.
Besides the massive gap in wealth/health inequality plaguing much of the middle class, America’s love affair with mind-altering prescription drugs could be one of the many reasons producing structural decay.
President Trump continues to spoon feed the vanishing middle class with the hope and hype narrative that the U.S. economy is now magically the “greatest in history,” meanwhile structural decay proves otherwise.
Suicide trends across America are so bad that even Hollywood had to bring together a bunch of celebrity stars to rap about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in a 2017 music video, called 1-800-273-8255.
As it has been understood, Hollywood is the propaganda arm of Washington, and the elected and unelected elites know that the empire is starting to unravel, as their failed fiscal, monetary, and social policies have produced massive amounts of inequality triggering the latest wave of suicides.
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