We reached out to several experts who shared their thoughts with us about the recent celebrity suicide of Gia Allemand. Here’s what they had to say about this tragic event, and celebrity suicide in general:
“Celebrities experience much stress to reach and maintain their high levels of achievement and public exposure. This chronic stress depletes the brain of key nutrients, predictably causing depression, fatigue, insomnia, and brain fog. These factors can increase the chance of suicidal ideation and attempts.
When a person is imbalanced because of emotional and nutritional-deficiency stresses, an upsetting event–such as a relationship problem–can be the final straw before a poor decision is made.
Being in the limelight can be mesmerizing and all-consuming. If celebrities don’t have a strong foundation of knowing their inherent worth and spiritual nature, any perceived failures can feel devastating and lead to catastrophic actions.“
Mark Pitstick, MA, DC
Expert on holistic health care
“Looking at the beautiful Gia Allemand’s photos, it’s hard to imagine she had such emotional pain — enough to drive her to take her own life by hanging — a very deliberate and violent method of suicide, and not one usually seen with women, who when they opt for suicide, usually do so with pills. Her image smiles at us from reality TV clips, paparazzi photos, and now, obituary-type news stories. But beauty is not enough to protect people from suicide and while the glare of the spotlight, especially with reality stars, who are unsupported and don’t have a lot of role models to help guide them as they muddle through this relatively new life-style, that spotlight and the flash flood of fame can force issues that are more easily repressed in civilian life.
Celebrity suicide is not common as ‘civilian’ suicide, but reality start suicide is a new niche (for lack of a better word). Celebrities who have Hollywood careers are protected in ways that reality stars are not. The latest Hollywood suicide attempt by celebrity actor Owen Wilson after his romance with Kate Hudson ended, was luckily, a failed attempt. But reality stars don’t have the same support systems in place that Hollywood affords actors and actresses who become part of the “family” of agents, managers and studio executives, all who are invested in these stars because their careers are interlinked. The Hollywood support system watches out for their investments. Reality stars, conversely, are seen as clawing their way to the top, mostly loners, not sure of the path towards that brass ring, and without gatekeepers to stage interventions and rally the press to shine light where a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold, that often saves stars like one did for Britney Spears. Reality stars are out there all alone for the most part — not unlike ‘civilians’ where suicide is much more prevalent and unremarkable.
Men and women write my free relationship advice forum, www.AskApril.com/forums, sometimes desperate for help with a relationship, and considering suicide, or looking for help with a loved one who is. The site is anonymous, and the privacy prompts them to speak frankly to me, a relative stranger — often easier than circling the same rut in a pattern that brought them to the dark place with those in their lives, currently. These people sometimes don’t have the money or the know-how to get any other type of help. But we can all help by starting to balance our strength and being tough in life, with the reality that life is fragile, and emotions run deep and are the catalyst for behaviors like suicide. Toughen up — but keep a watchful eye — and if you see someone who’s mental health you’re not sure about, get help. Be conservative, and pick up the phone, just in case. It’s much more likely that someone in your life today is affected by the suicide of a friend, family member, neighbor or community member — than any of us are by the celebrities in the press. Ms. Allemand’s tragic death is a reminder to all of us that she wasn’t always a reality star. She’s more like the rest of us, than like the big stars in the spotlight.”
Nicknamed “the new millennium’s Dear Abby” by the media, April Masini writes the critically acclaimed ‘Ask April’ advice column and answers reader’s questions on the free Ask April advice forum. Author of four books, including Date Out Of Your League (TurnKey Press, 0-9746763-0-6) and Think & Date Like A Man (iUniverse, 0-595-37466-2), April has been interviewed for over 2,700 articles and opinion pieces, radio and television shows, including those on FOX, ABC, CBS, MSN, Telemundo and Univision — New York Times, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Maxim and USA Today.
“We can’t begin to know what was in the mind of a person who commits suicide, but there’s no doubt that celebrities, especially, have a tendency to engage in more self-damaging behavior than most people. Most celebrities don’t go to the extreme of consciously committing suicide like Gia Allemand, but they are often trying to commit suicide unconsciously.
Abusing drugs, alcohol and other substances are in themselves a way of unconsciously trying to commit suicide. In most cases, celebrities like Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr., and Lindsey Lohan appear to narrowly escape death from abusing drugs, but others like Cory Monteith, Heath Ledger, and Anna Nicole are not so lucky, and finally get their ‘wish.’”
Mario Almonte, PR specialist and blogger for the Huffington Post on politics and popular culture.
“No one knows what Gia’s life and relationships were like. No one. People tend to judge, compartmentalize, and categorize. The fact is even the most non-judgmental of us is raised with categorizing messages. It is most important to know that a person who chooses a permanent solution to temporary problems sees no way out. They feel hopeless and that there is no person in their depressed lives to turn to. Often, a suicide is triggered by a traumatic event such as a romantic relationship breakup, death of a close loved one, or career/finances gone South. We don’t know. America must find it in their hearts to be compassionate and understanding for those who are suffering.”
Dr. Fran Walfish, author of The Self-Aware Parent
“My heart aches for the fact that she didn’t have anyone to turn to or that could help her in her time of need. I was lucky that I had a person who I had barely met months before call me and not be able to reach me on phone and he sensed that I was in bad place and showed up before I could complete the suicide. My heart aches knowing that she didn’t have this person.
What causes them?
Hitting rock bottom that place way deep that nobody wants to talk about but should because it saves lives to talk about it. I have never been embarrassed of the fact that I attempted suicide and feel that by sharing my story it helps people be ‘real’ and talk. Shit happens and everyone has emotions, thoughts and feelings and need understanding and compassion that we often don’t receive unfortunately in the world today.
Are celebrities more likely to commit suicide than the average person?
I would say they have it even tougher because of the pressure of being a celebrity and the exposure of being in the public eye with not as much down time as the average person who can duck under the radar more easily. I think women also have a very difficult time in general today because of the extreme pressures on women to look a certain way, act a certain way and even be a certain way. Women are in a difficult place as celebrity also for the fact they have to compete with the images of the marketing and advertising agencies are selling. A man can age and it is distinguished a woman ages and she is no longer pretty or worthy in many cases. I know this from having a mother who is pageant winner and model – women have many obstacles and they are obstacles that need to be removed starting today.
Honoring her life and remembering her when there is a friend down or when there is a person who needs that extra care or concern I hope is what people will do as their way of honoring her. Rather than focus on the suicide itself – the act, focus on what you can do today to honor her life and take action and do something. It can be as simple as a smile as you walk by a stranger or holding a door open for the lady at the post office.”
Alexis Moore, author of “A Parent’s Guide To Cyberstalking and Cyberbullying: Protecting your children as simple as 1-2-3,” and cyberstalking and cyberbullying expert
“All too often, celebrities who commit suicide were thought to ‘have it all’ when, in fact, they may be feeling incompetent, depressed or highly stressed. External appearances can hide a number of internal turmoil factors and the demands of celebrity make it impossible for them to tell anyone about it. They believe, perhaps, that they will be seen as foolish
or that it will detract from their celebrity if they admit to feelings like this. Also, personal demons from many sources from childhood to adulthood may still haunt them and, when the stress is too much, suicide seems the only escape from the pain.”
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
“I do not know Gia, but most people who kill themselves are suffering from depression which may or may not have been diagnosed or treated. We do know that people who become this despondent and hopeless… develop tunnel thinking – they can’t seem to see beyond their current distress to things getting better.
Most people who take their own lives are desperate to relieve the emotional pain they feel but [do] not necessarily want to die. Very often [the attempt or suicide] is preceded by a loss of some kind – of either someone dear to them, a loss of self-esteem or something of value to them personally. Perhaps the latter plays a part in celebrity suicides.
I have not made a study of [celebrity suicides] but do think some may be related to substance use as many young people try to self-medicate when they are experiencing emotional difficulties by using alcohol or drugs which of course can influence their thinking and subsequent actions.
Dr. Leader co-founded TEEN Line, an LA-based organization credentialed by the American Association of Suicidology 33 years ago. She coordinated adolescent group psychotherapy training at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for more than 20 years and currently trains LAPD to work with suicidal youth and their families.”
Dr. Elaine Leader, PH.D., BCD, CGP, LFAGPA
“I feel sorry for celebrities. They are constantly hounded, talked about, and criticized and this could present a tremendous strain on their emotional state. Sometimes people don’t know how to deal with the world making comments about their personal life and therefore they may feel it easier to end it all. Many people want to have the riches of a celebrity but not the attention that comes with the lifestyle. I am a book author who has gained a lot of attention based on my book I’ve wrote and even though I am not famous, I have been criticized, degraded, defamed, and called every name imaginable because of it. I could only imagine what would happen if I was to become famous one day. It is a hard life to live for no reason. Just because you are a celebrity doesn’t make you superhuman and doesn’t constitute harsh criticism because they have money. Why the world does this is hard to understand and that is why I believe so many celebrities fall victim to the lifestyle by abusing drugs, alcohol, and sex. Excessive behaviors prove to be fatal.”
Natasha Carmon, Louisville, Ky., Author
“Suicide, among celebrity, is very tricky. As fans, most are so accustomed to exposure to the celebrity, we are thrown off when suicide occurs. Not only does it catch us ‘off guard’ but we second guess how well we know virtually ‘anybody’. It surprises us because suicide is generally a very private matter. There is a certain amount of introversion to those seeking fame and it is in this place that celebrities often hold all things private. This can include many private self-destructive behaviors. The victim is able to keep it private, often without even the closest family member’s awareness. As the case with Gia, when suicide occurs, confusion follows, questions are unanswered and inevitable blame ensues among those closest to the victim. Rest assured that most celebrities and potentially those seeking celebrity, keep undesirable aspects of their lives and emotional well-being, close to the vest and hidden from public view. Hollywood is for the fit, the happy, the desirable and no one knows this more than those trying to climb the proverbial marquis! Add to this dynamic, the lure of reality television taking ordinary guys and gals, placing themselves in front of the eye of paparazzi lenses which can only see so much. Whatever inner issues are brewing simply brew without fanfare. Add to the recipe busy schedules, timelines, deadlines and insanity that only more drama can stop. Actors are more times well equipped because it takes a lot of time, patience, skill and luck to make it. Not so with reality television and it’s stars. Some can handle it, some can’t and often times escape the only way they can understand.”
Kimberly Friedmutter, Ch.t Life Management Expert, American Board of Hypnotherapy, Certified Master Hypnotist, Association for Integrative Psychology, American Board of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Certified NLP Trainer, Certified Master Practitioner, International Hypnosis Federation, Spiritual Counselor Specialist, Medical and Dental Specialist, Researcher Division Registered Member, Coaching Division Registered Member, Association for Integrative Psychology
Life Management Expert Kimberly is a globally acclaimed hypnotist. With her highly developed intuition and ability to hear the unspoken, clientele have enjoyed her processes and ability to help them enhance their lives. Many years of success have given her the insight to encourage others through Life Management Consultation. Her unique ability to diffuse life’s potential upsets and her power of focus on the positive lends itself to the reference as ‘guru’. After developing, writing and hosting a talk radio program on KLSX 97.1 FM Los Angeles, Kimberly Friedmutter’s content and presentation of grass roots and common sense sharing was a hit.
“I am certain the statistics would support the idea that celebs are no different than any other demographic struggling with mental illness. They are just very visible. Pain is pain. As the co-founder of the first Sugar Detox Center in the country 15 years ago I saw all kinds of trauma-drama play out, the same issues much of the population is dealing with. Celebrity is also an added weight to a disturbed person (Amanda Bynes) and a contributing factor to their desire to check out. Fame is hard when you are in pain from a personal matter.”
Denise Martin, creator of “Celebrity Sugar Detox”
“Participation in reality television itself does not cause mental illness, but if individuals are predisposed to mental health issues, they may be exacerbated by the intensity that participating may bring into their lives. By taking part in the filming of a show, personal problems are often magnified for individuals with and without mental health problems.
Allowing the world to witness the intricacies of your personal life can bring up emotional issues that individual has yet to address. If and when possible, participants should try to work through their personal or relationship issues prior to filming.”
Rhonda Richards-Smith, LCSW
Mental Health and Relationship Expert
California Board of Behavioral Sciences: LCS28123
Los Angeles, California
“First Alexander McQueen. Then Andrew Koenig. Then Marie Osmond’s son, Michael, all three committed suicide. It just goes to show that if you do not have coping skills, anyone including stars will turn to drugs, alcohol and even suicide.
Is fame to blame for the recent suicides? NO! It just shows that no one is immune to the debilitating effects of depression. If your world is shattered by a recent event (death of a loved one, loss of a relationship or job, financial worries) or there is no hope for your future, suicide seems like a good choice. Imagine spending the rest of your life (20, 30, 40 plus years) and all you can see into your future is doom and gloom? If you did not know any good coping mechanisms, this might be a choice for you.
How can someone feel hope when there is nothing to look forward to in their future? Choose a different future. When you can connect to a future self that is different then you are experiencing, you will feel more hope in your present moment. We are always projecting into our futures. That is how our brains work. It cycles between our past, present and future. And with quantum physics, all time is simultaneous and is happening right now.
Most people that commit suicide show warning signs. The problem is that most of us don’t talk about what these signs are. We don’t learn them in school. We don’t discuss them in the media, until there are suicides that are high profile. If you knew what the warning signs were, you could do something to help. I did not know the warning signs of suicide when my sister Terri took her own life. Later I found out what they were, and Terri was a checklist of these signs. I could have done something to prevent this.
Most people that commit suicide (90%) have had a prior alcohol and drug abuse.
Do anti-depressants really work? This expert says no. They only mask the problem. A person that is depressed is depressed for a reason. For some people it is a chemical imbalance in which those drugs would help. But what about the people that are suppressing their emotions? Most of us have been taught to deny our emotions and therefore suppress them. Our emotions are our alarm system that lets us know what is right or wrong in our lives. If we do not listen to them and change the situations, suicide is a result that happens way too often.”
Expertise: New York Times Bestselling Author, Creator of the Enlightened Kid Program, Life Coach, Transformational Leader, CEO and founder of Quantum Success Coaching Academy
“I’m a LCSW and work as a Psychotherapist and coach in Palm Beach, FL. I have been in the field for almost two decades. I am a transition specialist whose specialty areas include depression and anxiety. I have had the opportunity to work with individual clients, couples and families to help them work through various life issues including the mending and strengthening of family relationships or just working on personal little quirks. My focus is on helping people make the changes to get what they want out of life and their relationships. I have written a few books, including Attitude Adjustment: Keys to Living Life on Your terms, which focuses on helping individuals change the way they look at and go after what they want. Which focuses on helping the individual get out of their own way.
One of the issues in suicide is that the person does not have the skills to help them cope with stresses they find overwhelming. We all go through high stress periods, but the general population has some benefits that are frequently not afforded to celebrities. Most people get to go through their low points with some level of privacy. For celebrities however, it can become a spectacle where others compete to see who can get the most details the quickest. So in addition to dealing with their problems, they also have to invest in trying to keep the information from being public. This not only adds to the stressors, it also requires them to divest resources that should be going toward resolving the problem.
With celebrities who face a more instant fame, it can be difficult to adjust to it. When you add that to the stressors that the individual already had, it really takes a great deal of resources to manage, but they are not taught how to deal with it. They may not be more susceptible to suicide per se but because people generally have this idea that as celebrity they have so much and should be happy they often don’t get the help that they need. The pressure of fame is added.
Even getting the help they need can become a problem when security and privacy issues are added to the mix. While therapists have an obligation to maintain confidentiality, they have to be able to put in place additional safeguards for clients whose treatment status more outsiders may be interested in. In addition to privacy issues, they need someone who can understand the unique challenges that their celebrity status presents. Going through a depressing is something that is common in the general population, but going through it while you are on display adds another element. Having everyone expecting you to be the engaging celebrity is another set of obligations that can make the person feel like they are not living up to expectations in yet another area.”
Dr. Judi Cinéas, LCSW, Ph.D., Psychotherapist
Here is a video from Dr. Judi Cinéas with information on suicide in general:
“I am an addictions coach and would like to share that the high rate of addiction leads to suicide among celebs.”
Cali Estes, MS, ICADC, CAP, CRC, CPT, CYT
“What causes suicide? Depression often accompanies suicidal ideation and suicide attempts but is not present with everyone that is suicidal. Emotional distress, inadequate coping skills, and limited support systems can be factors as well. The most significant are feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. When an individual feels that their situation has become hopeless, will not improve, and helpless that they can do anything to change it the risk for suicide increases dramatically.
Are celebrities more likely to commit suicide than the average person? Emotional distress and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and effect anyone. Celebrities may experience increased scrutiny from public attention which may exacerbate their struggles but does not put them at higher risk per se. The risks of suicide become more apparent when a celebrity express, attempt, and/or commit suicide.
Suicide is a significant concern and too often questions are asked after the fact on how we could prevent it. While suicide cannot be predicted some signs may be visible in advance. Is someone experiencing or reporting emotional distress? Do they isolate from others? Do they express that their situation is hopeless, won’t change, and that there is nothing they can do about it? Do they begin to give personal items away? Do conversations change where they appear to be saying ‘goodbyes?’ These are some things to be aware of. Having suicidal thoughts is not always dangerous as one may be expressing a way of removing pain, not a desire to end their life. Assess for dangerousness, if they have thoughts, ask if they have a plan. Is that plan feasible? Do they have the means to follow through with the plan? Do they have intent, will they carry out the plan if given the opportunity? Any yes answers increase the risk dramatically, consult a mental health professional, call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room. It is better to intervene than regret decisions not made later.”
Dr. Gerald Grosso, Clinical Director at Morningside Recovery
As a college English teacher I’ve lectured extensively on the suicides of Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson. As an image consultant I can tell you that celebrities are under a lot of stress. The more they achieve, the more they need to achieve in order to feel comfortable with themselves.
“Gia Allemand must have experienced the stress of being in the spotlight, just as Marilyn Monroe did.
It’s so unfortunate that friends and family can’t foresee these problems and take appropriate steps to help.
As Emile Durkheim points out in his classic study SUICIDE (1897), the root cause is anomie, the feeling of being unconnected with others. In our society, despite the large number of people, we’re often much more unconnected than tribal peoples from the Amazon Basin, for example, who typically have almost no suicide. (Recent incursions of Western culture, however, have been correlated with an alarming rise in tribal suicide rates among these primitive people. See, e.g., http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/1231).
It is important to forge bonds of social connectedness in order to maintain our sanity. This is all the more true for those in the media limelight.”
Michael Christian, J.D.
Pen name William Cane
689 Kimball Avenue
Yonkers NY 10704-1533
Last of all, we wanted to share the opinion of someone who wanted to share her thoughts about celebrity suicide in general, just to keep things in perspective:
“Celebrities are regular people just like everyone else. Everyone goes through things. Why would celebrities be more prone to killing themselves than regular people?”