Jackson O'Dell's Suicide Marks a Sad and Dangerous Trend

The media might consider covering these stories differently, as they do have an effect.

Musician and actor Jackson O'Dell died by his own hand today. He was just 20 years old, and in love (the image above is from his Twitter feed).

I am not an expert on suicide and depression. However I do know that people who are at the end of themselves, and their hope has dwindled to a flicker, derive some sense of relief when they see and read about celebrities, with all the trappings of success, who have exited their lives by their own hands.

After Robin Williams' death, suicide rates spiked 10%. And here we are, reporting the third public celebrity suicide in a week. It's a bad trend. Read this for an excellent deep dive on the topic. Let me quote Eric Carver's initial point, because it's supremely important.

Now, before I go any further, let me say this: if you are experiencing depression and thoughts of suicide, please, I urge you, get the help that is available. The Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 is a good first step. They will listen to you and talk with you as long as you need. Speak to a medical professional who can help diagnose and treat your condition. Continue reaching out, whether it be a spouse, significant other, parent, sibling, close friend, your church, or whatever community you belong to. There are people who care about you, who love you, and who will walk on this journey with you. Your life is precious and worth living. Things are not okay now, but as long as you keep going, they can be okay.

In 2008, the World Health Organization concluded: "Vulnerable individuals may be influenced to engage in imitative behaviours by reports of suicide, particularly if the coverage is extensive, prominent, sensationalist and/or explicitly describes the method of suicide."

In the U.K., BBC guidelines promote sensitivity in the reporting of suicides. Perhaps American media might take a lesson here, and apply it. It would be better if these events didn't make the headlines, other than to report that a celebrity has died. Yes, the assumption of suicide might hang around--and of course, it's news when someone like Anthony Bourdain is found dead. But we don't need to know how or why, at least not until the sensational headline has passed out of the news cycle.

Maybe a 48-hour, or even a one or two-week silence period on how certain celebrities died would be a good policy. Is it really in the public interest to know if it was an unintentional drug overdose, a ruptured spleen, a heart attack, stroke, or brain aneurysm versus a suicide? It might be news, but it's not pressing, immediate headline news.

To people struggling with their own depression and hopelessness, knowing versus not knowing could be the difference between living to face tomorrow, or not. And tomorrow is always waiting, with new promise. Every day can be the day when things get better. Sometimes, it's better to not know.

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@ekay - I'm glad your relative survived to have that moment of perspective. It's often all too easy to give up when things look hopeless. We make decisions that are all too rash and short sighted. It's important to have those people in our lives to remind us to never give up fighting because humans are ultimately survivors. If we weren't all survivors at heart, we'd never have made it this far in time as a species. Even those who have given up should ultimately remind us to keep fighting because we have nothing to gain from giving up our will to fight.


@MistyBat - Purely anecdotal, but If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of my friends joke about having to work until they die and never retire, I'd have enough to retire. I would assume this has a lot to do with it. What good are your golden years if you're piss broke and sick as a dog and everything you worked for turns out to be one big lie. Republicans keep threatening to mess with Social Security and Medicare which instead of fixing it, will likely break it.They will never have the retirement their parents enjoyed. People aren't saving enough, companies force people out before they can full vest in retirement plans and pensions. We treat the workaday Joe and Jane like shit in the name of a stock price increase. Obviously, I doubt Anthony had to worry about retirement funding, but he's not the average suicide victim either. For the every day Joe, retirement might be a very scary thing when they know they can't afford to ever quit working.

We also don't have real community anymore because nobody has time to maintain proper friendships, marriages, etc. We're worked to death(at least the death of the things that make life worth living).


The chorus of the MAS*H theme song went, "Suicide is painless. It brings on many changes. And I can take or leave it if I please." Cue plaintive guitar.

Actually, the words should be, "Suicide's contagious". Only in recent years have schools adopted an all-adult-hands-on-deck response when a student kills him/herself, because we now know that other kids will then see suicide as a viable option to their current problems.

I checked in every now and then with Anthony Bourdain via his various shows over the past two decades. It was a marvel how this ex-heroin addict, who once took viewers to the piers under which he shot smack while learning to cook, regularly drank people under the table in every corner of the world. It seems silly now to have thought he'd conquered his demons and was living the dream. Bourdain ran in the same rich & famous New York circles as international handbag maven Kate Spade, who hanged herself three or four days before he did the same. Her self-erasing exit probably looked like a good escape from whatever was chasing him at the time.

What isn't talked about much is the skyrocketing rate of suicide among white males aged 45-60 (according to studies by the Yale Global Health Review, and Psychology Today). What's going on?


I have a relative who was givin a diagnosis that required surgery if he were to live. In the state of mind he was in he would have opted out of surgery. Fast forward to 2 1/2 months and he is glad he wasn't given the option to opt out of surgery because life is now much better, and getting better all of the time. Some health issues still around. Yes. Are they worth killing himself? Definitely NO. If you know someone who is that desperate, please take a stand beside them, reminding them of every little good thing that makes life worth the living.


That's not what I'm saying. Thanks for putting words in my mouth and for having zero reading comprehension skills. Or maybe your only instinct is to be intellectually dishonest when cornered? I'm saying that what you wish for is impossible because there are too many avenues for news and short of a Chinese style censorship program, that news will get out. If it were even possible(in China or some fantasy version of the rest of the world), it would be at best a short term fix since it's not doing anything to fix the underlying problem(hint, it's not the news) It is at best a slight reduction of a single input among the 100s of others that fuel that underlying problem. It would be cheaper, and more effective and absolutely more permanent to address the problem head on instead of pretending to do things (things that will also cost money to implement but offer no long term return).

I would argue I care far more about this problem than you do because I'm not interested in waving my hands in pretending, I'm interested in permanent solutions that work. I specifically argue against how we treat our poor, mentally ill, the homeless - it's disgusting that we have these issues given we're supposed to be the greatest nation on earth, a nation based on christian principles(while turning our backs on those who need it most) and you claim I lack compassion? Sounds like projection, bro.

BTW - if you don't think what amounts to censorship(of ANY subject) wouldn't make at least a portion of the population less stable, paranoid, etc. and wouldn't lead to more violence and problems, you must not be an American. Seriously.

The hypocrisy of using the "if it works now and saves one life, why not do it" argument for censorship, when most conservatives absolutely reject that as a reason to do anything about gun control(which would save thousands of lives and is certainly not a short term fix) is also a wonderful touch.

You might also be interested in knowing there is an extremely strong correlation between gun ownership and rates of suicide. You are far more likely to commit suicide if you own a gun than you are if you do not.

Indeed, who is hurt?