The Solution to Suicide Prevention Is Never Suicide

Op-Ed: Anthony Bourdain’s death has us asking the wrong questions about suicide prevention – and the need for more research

On January 10, 2012, Anthony Bourdain, a 33-year-old chef and travel writer, was found dead in his hotel room in the Caribbean.

His death was classified as a suicide by the coroner’s office as well as CNN.

His death was further complicated by an incident on the day of his death, where his then-fiancee, Gail Chrystie, poured ice water on him in an apparent attempt to prevent him from taking his own life.

A year after his death, Bourdain’s sister and brother-in-law called for a ban on suicide prevention programs and an end to public service announcements that call for people to take their lives.

They argued that they were “disturbing the public’s consciousness, and making it harder for them to deal with the crisis of gun violence.”

The call to ban suicide prevention programs and to end public service announcements were all too familiar to the world of suicide prevention research.

As the director of a suicide prevention program and author of the book A Suicide Pact: Understanding Suicide in America, a leading figure in the field of suicide prevention, I’ve seen the effects of suicide prevention efforts firsthand.

The idea is compelling: a program that can help people to live their best lives, by preventing suicide, saving lives, and ending stigma and discrimination. And it’s become a centerpiece of every suicide prevention campaign that I have been involved in or had an experience with.

But that’s not what I’ve seen.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard of this view that suicide prevention programs are harmful. But it’s becoming more pervasive with the proliferation of suicide programming on television screens, and in the media, in everything from Facebook to YouTube.

Suicide prevention in a nutshell

So what is it that makes suicide prevention programming so off-putting and so harmful?

It starts with a fundamental misunderstanding of suicide, of why it happens.

Solutions for prevention don’t involve suicide

The solution to suicide prevention is never suicide. It’s never a solution. A solution is something that stops the harm we see in suicide.

It is true that we need to help people to avoid suicide. But that’s the solution.

Our solutions to suicide

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