Celebrity Suicides Highlight Importance of Knowing Red Flags
I must admit, I had never heard of L'Wren Scott before news of her apparent suicide hit the media circuit. Apparently I was in the minority. As Mick Jagger's girlfriend and an accomplished fashion designer, Ms. Scott seemed to have a charmed - and famous - life.
But as we've seen time and again, fame and money do not guarantee happiness. Depression and despair do not discriminate. And, unfortunately, it's often difficult to see the problems brewing under the surface of a seemingly perfect life.
People are speculating that Ms. Scott had a host of problems brewing in her own life, but we'll never really know. I'm not sure that's the most important question, anyway. I think the more crucial - and agonizing - question is, "Could this have been prevented if we had seen the signs?"
This is the only silver lining surrounding the tragedy of celebrity suicides - they force us to think about risk factors and warning signs. While knowing the signs of possible suicide won't guarantee that the act can be prevented, it certainly gives us an enormous opportunity to maximize the person's safety and locate the help that is needed.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, here are some red flags that may indicate a person is at higher risk of suicide:
- A diagnosis of a mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia
- Family history of suicide or suicide attempts
- Stressful life circumstances, such as job loss, divorce, death of a close family member, military service, or extreme financial problems
- A change in personality; for instance, the person may begin taking risks that seem out of the ordinary or may withdraw from previously enjoyed activities
- Preoccupation with death
- Social isolation, even from people previously close with the person
- A sudden declaration that "everything is all right" or that the person has "figured everything out"
If you notice any of these red flags in yourself or someone else, it's important to notify someone immediately. This could be the person's physician or mental health professional, but it should always be someone who can assess the situation from a professional perspective. It's important to take any threat of suicide seriously. If you feel that there is an immediate threat, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and ask for help.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (n.d.). Risk factors and warning signs. http://www.afsp.org/preventing-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs