How Suicide Quietly Morphed Into a Public Health Crisis


According to Matthew Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard, the wide majority of people who die by suicide “explicitly deny suicidal thoughts or intentions in their last communications before dying.”

Andrew Spade, Ms. Spade’s husband, said she had seemed fine when he’d talked to her just before her suicide. Mr. Bourdain was filming one of his clever, humorous shows in Strasbourg, France, when his body was discovered.

The rise of suicide turns a dark mirror on modern American society: its racing, fractured culture; its flimsy mental health system; and the desperation of so many individual souls, hidden behind the waves of smiling social media photos and cute emoticons.

Some experts fear that suicide is simply becoming more acceptable. “It’s a hard idea to test, but it’s possible that a cultural script may be developing among some segments of our population,” said Julie Phillips, a sociologist at Rutgers.

Prohibitions are apparently loosening in some quarters, she said. Particularly among younger people, Dr. Phillips said, “We are seeing somewhat more tolerant attitudes toward suicide.”

In surveys, younger respondents are more likely than older ones “to believe we have the right to die under certain circumstances, like incurable disease, bankruptcy, or being tired of living,” she said.

The cultural currents that deepen despair and increase the chances of suicide have long been staples of sociological debate.



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