It’s become all too common to hear about the losses of public figures to suicides. We see pictures of their smiling faces before the tragedies – and the line underneath usually says something to the effect of: “this is what suicide looks like.”
It’s an attempt at normalization: “see, celebrities struggle too.” But as a society, we still aren’t openly talking about suicide – in schools, in offices…about HOW it can happen…about what goes on in the mind of those who have ideations. About what to expect if you start to feel these “error messages.”
My thought/fear then, is that those campaigns become less about normalization, & more about how the lifestyle of public figures can lead to suicide. The pressure to perform. The pressure of having your every move critiqued, etc.
While those are absolutely factors, I think it’s important for us to couple the celebrity stories, with the aggregate data of everyday people. Here’s some of that data:
48k deaths by suicide in the US last year, over 800k globally. Then let’s look at trends over time:
- From 1999 thru 2018, the suicide rate increased 35%, from 10.5 per 100,000 to 14.2.
- The rate increased on average approximately 1% per year from 1999 to 2006 and by 2% per year from 2006 through 2018.
*Looking at our youngsters: the rate of suicide in those 10-24 increased over 60% in the last decade.
This isn’t a celebrity issue. The world has gotten faster. Expectations are higher. Smart phones have made the brains work faster than ever. Think about dial-up AOL, getting 3 emails a day, to now 3 emails a minute. DMs on 7 different platforms. Comparisons on social media. Traditional media that (to compete w the fragmentation of options) sells doom & gloom & divisiveness to draw us in. It’s a LOT. And it contributes to these error messages & ultimately the higher rates.
Let’s commit to talking openly. About our own thoughts. Our own stress & trauma. THAT is what normalizes convo, more than a few celeb examples. We can be a big part of reversing the trends.