What happens when a celebrity kills himself?

I heard the news of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide this afternoon, this left me shocked and speechless. It’s shocking that someone with so much could be so sad: He was young, beautiful, talented, wealthy, and widely loved. And the very fact that he lead a film about preventing suicide last year and it became commercially successful and was declared a blockbuster, so the last person we believe who can commit suicide was this person!

I’m not going to the details of what might be the reasons behind it but this effects mental health of large population after the suicide of someone you admired or feel similar to or find yourself in a critical mental situation, depression and specially in this era of corona, it is even more disturbing.

When a famous Hong Kong entertainment celebrity, who committed suicide on 1 April 2003, a population‐based survey was conducted between December 2003 and July 2004. Respondents were asked about their suicidal ideation, psychological well‐being, life events, and whether or not they had been affected by celebrity suicide. It concluded:

Celebrity suicide is a risk factor for suicidal ideation over a short term as well as over a long term. Raising awareness of the possible negative effect of celebrity suicide through suicide prevention programmes in the community is needed.

Celebrity suicides have an outsize influence. People recognised the phenomenon before modern statistics: After publication of Wolfgang Goethe’s Sufferings of Young Werther, there was a rash of suicides across Europe notably similar to the one in the novel. It was called the “Werther effect.” After Marilyn Monroe’s death, suicides increased by 12 percent.

Changing the way a suicide is reported in the press can reduce suicides. In 1989, a national conference of suicidologists, psychologists, and journalists pooled their knowledge and came up with a set of media guidelines for reporting on suicide, the goal being to keep vulnerable people alive.

To cope with these situations, WHO came up with some guidelines which could prevent people from going in depression with some of its points, it consists of 7 effective points:

  1. 1. Don’t promote suicide stories by placing them in the front pages of the newspaper or as a lead item for broadcast media.

  2. 2. Don’t give details about the method or location of any suicide death or attempt.

  3. 3. Suicide notes, text messages, social media posts, and emails of the deceased person and/or their family members should not be published.

  4. 4. Don’t speculate. Verify your facts from multiple sources when the reasons for a suicide death or attempt are not immediately clear.

  5. 5. Don’t reveal personal details about family members, the deceased person, or any person who has attempted suicide without their informed consent.

  6. 6. Don’t write of suicide deaths/attempts as horrific, unfortunate events. Open up your story by focusing on the celebrity’s life and their contribution to society.

  7. 7. Suicide is a largely preventable public health problem. There are several counselling services and helplines working across the country for this cause. Include these resources in your story/report.

BUT if you know he hanged himself, that means our news channels have violated these rules for cheap TRP, well that’s not a new violation for them but it endangers if someone is vulnerable. This is the part of the reason why centre for mental heath & law policy tweeted this:

So, we need to stick with these guidelines while reporting on celebrity suicides and understand how you report will have an adverse impact on people who are distressed and very vulnerable.

This is very sad when this happens and it can be prevented through mental health awareness and we can keep these gems from losing for something which can be fixed.

RIP Sushant!