Guest Column Suicide? Why?

Hollywood producer Tony Scott made the decision August 20th to end his life.  Of all the decisions we can make in our lives, this is probably the most crucial one of all – the one that will have the greatest, the longest, and farthest-reaching impact.  We can’t know what went into this decision, but he joins many other well-known people who have made that same choice.  (See sidebar below)


Suicide has often been referred to as a “selfish act.”  Understandably there are family and friends whose lives are unmistakably altered by this choice, and with little (if any) control over it.  But for many, ending their lives does not seem selfish at all.  In fact, people often express a firm conviction that “the world (or my family) will be better off without me.”


Thoughts of suicide run the range from a single thought over a minor disappointment or frustration to the well thought-out and planned action.  In most cases, this kind of death leaves so many unanswered questions.  Was it intentional?  Was it an accident?  Why????  Why didn’t you tell me you were thinking of this?  Should I have seen the signs?  Was there something I could have or should have done?  Why???  Why did you do this?


Some people in the midst of an attempt will either change their minds or expect someone to find them “in time.”  However, unfortunately, help in whatever form may arrive too late.  What pushes people to seriously consider taking their lives?  Depression often precedes an act of suicide.  The person feels completely unable to cope with overwhelming stressors, or is experiencing deep emotional pain.  There may be an overpowering sense of worthlessness, of being of no use to anyone.  Often people who consider suicide experience feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  They have lost all hope of things ever getting better, and nothing will convince them differently.


What signs can we look for that would suggest a person may be suicidal?  Classic signs include talk of despair, hopelessness, no sense of purpose, powerlessness.  Or it might be evident that that person has lost interest in things previously enjoyed, has significant problems sleeping, not eating, or is noticeably withdrawing.

Other signs include reckless behaviors, increased use of drugs or alcohol, feelings of rage or uncontrollable anger, preoccupation with death or with “putting things in order,” which can come in the form of giving away possessions, seeking access to firearms, pills, or other methods to commit suicide, threatening or writing about death or suicide – are all definite tell-tale signs.

Unfortunately, sometimes the signs are subtle and can easily be overlooked.  For many people who have already made the clear decision to end their lives, they will give no indication of this, and in fact may even seem to be doing better.  Sometimes making that decision alone brings relief from the agony they have been experiencing.

Can suicide be prevented?  In many cases it can if that person is able to find relief from those things that make suicide look “inviting.” Relief generally comes from finding someone to talk to who can accept and understand their feelings, yet offers some hope towards finding solutions to bring a sense of purpose and power back into their lives.


Is a professional person required?  It can be extremely difficult for an untrained person to know how to respond to another person’s expressed thoughts of suicide.  Perhaps one of the greatest forms of help a person can provide is to express strong caring and concern for the suicidal person, to validate the depth of their hopelessness, yet show the desire to help find solutions.


Generally the best way to assist that person is by getting professional help from a doctor, mental health professional, or through a hospital emergency department.  During a suicidal crisis, it is essential that someone remain with that person, seeking assistance from others who also can provide this kind of presence and support.  In a sense, it’s saying, “You will not be alone until things can get better.”


There are immediate sources of help for an individual who is considering suicide: calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or the Crisis Line of Grundy County at 815-942-6611.  No matter how hopeless things seem, there is always hope somewhere.  Just reach out to someone who can help you find that hope.

Susan C. Hudson, MA LCPC, Director

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Division

Grundy County Health Department


Michele Batara, MA, CIRS

Executive Director

Crisis Line of Will and Grundy Counties



The following people made attempts to commit suicide:


Owen Wilson

Britney Spears

Halle Berry

Drew Carey

Mike Wallace

Elizabeth Taylor

Adam Ant

Drew Barrymore

Elton John

Tina Turner

Richard Pryor

Billy Joel


Johnny Cash

Gary Coleman

Ken Griffy Jr.


The following famous people died from suicide:



Vincent van Gogh

Virginia Woolf

Melvin Purvis- FBI agent who brought Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd to justice

Don Cornelius

Freddie Prinz

Ernest Hemingway

Del Shannon- sang Runaway

Charles Rocket – Saturday Night Live 80-81 season

Ryan Jenkins – Reality TV Star; Megan wants a Millionaire

Paula Goodspeed – Devoted fan of American Idol and Paula Abdul

Kurt Cobain

Mary Kay Bergman – voice of Ms. Cartman and Wendy on South Park and voice of Timmy Turner of Fairly Oddparents

Jonathon Brandes – Sea Quest, Never Ending Story II; The Next Chapter

Andrew Koenig – Boner on Growing Pains

Dano Plato – Kimberley on Different Strokes

Brynn Hartman – wife of Phil Hartman

Dave Duerson – Former Chicago Bear

Mary Kennedy – estranged wife of Robert Kennedy



Also see “One a Day”

(Time article on military suicides, July 23, 2012)


“Every day, one U.S. soldier commits suicide.”

“More U.S. soldiers have killed themselves than have died in the Afghan War.

Why can’t the Army win the war on suicide?”