How Celebrity Deaths Reveal the Hidden Threat of Suicide Contagion

How Celebrity Deaths Reveal the Hidden Threat of Suicide Contagion


Notes, photographs, and flowers are left in memory of Anthony Bourdain at the closed location of Brasserie Les Halles, where Bourdain used to work as the executive chef, on June 8th, 2018, in New York City.

Notes, photographs, and flowers are left in memory of Anthony Bourdain at the closed location of Brasserie Les Halles, where Bourdain used to work as the executive chef, on June 8th, 2018, in New York City.

Sandwiched between the suicides of designer Kate Spade and chef-turned-media personality Anthony Bourdain last week came an alarming new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): While the national suicide rate reached a 30-year high in 2016, the new CDC study reveals that the national suicide rate had increased in nearly every state and across every demographic group between 1999 and 2016 rather than just the poor, white Americans recently subject to public-health concerns over self-harm. Even worse, some 54 percent of those who died of suicide “did not have a known mental-health condition,” according to CDC researchers. Suicide, it seems, is becoming a distinctly American phenomenon.

For those who see suicide as a metric of social isolation in the tradition of legendary sociologist Émile Durkheim, the uptick in suicides might not be all that surprising. While more recently documented increases in the national suicide rate suggest the concentration of self-harm among poor, white Americans reflected a relative decline in social and political power, the uniform rise in suicide detailed in the CDC report shows that suicide increased across all racial and gender groups. Taken with the newfound disparity in pre-existing mental-health symptoms, this suggests another underlying factor that’s driving America’s pandemic of self-harm.



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