Hollywood Suicide Commands ‘Mega-Coverage’; Story of 6,500 Military/Veteran Suicides a Year Gets Rare Headline

On a hillside in affluent Lafayette, Calif., hand-made wooden crosses are a standing memorial marking the nearly 6,000 service members who died while serving in Iraq following 9/11. A significant number of those deaths were suicides, while self-inflicted deaths among veterans from all wars number far greater; at least 6,000 per year according conservative VA estimates. Americans remain ill informed of the scale of veterans suicides, however, as news editors often bypass the story in favor of high-profile celebrity suicides such as Hollywood director Tony Scott who jumped to his death from a Los Angeles bridge Aug. 19, 2012. (Bay Citizen)

PSYCHIATRIST: I Hate Suicide But Also Understand It

by Charles Raison M.D.
CNN, Aug. 21, 2012

Editor’s note: Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth’s mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

(CNN) — I got a terrible shock when I heard the news that the famous director Tony Scott had apparently committed suicide by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, California.

Not because I knew Scott, and certainly not because it is a rare thing for people who seem to “have it all” nonetheless to kill themselves.

Tony Scott directed the blockbuster movie ‘Top Gun’ among others. He died from suicide Aug. 19, 2012. (Everett Collection)

No, I got a shock because I knew the bridge.

For the better part of a decade, I trained and then worked as a psychiatrist in Los Angeles. For several of those years, I did psychotherapy with a young woman who drove over that same bridge every day. The bridge became almost a third person in our work together, because she talked about it constantly.

Every morning and then again every evening she faced huge anxiety as she approached its yawning span because it was all she could do not to stop her car and throw herself off it. Just seeing that bridge made all her pain and despair intensify, and it came to represent everything that was wrong with her life.

On the other hand, it’s a beautiful structure, in an industrial sort of way, and it also seemed beautiful to her because it was always there, silently waiting, always offering an easy out. When things were really bad, she’d drive 20 miles out of her way just to avoid that bridge and the terrible temptation to jump or crash her car off the side.

Fortunately, my patient avoided Scott’s fate. She came to grips with a history of abuse and her depression eased. She married and left Los Angeles. I also left Los Angeles, but a few years ago, I returned to the San Pedro area to give a talk and crossed that bridge with a mixture of relief and distress.

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