The wrong way to explain Fredric Brandt’s suicide

April 10, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

New York Magazine

In the days since well-known dermatologist Fredric Brandt’s death by suicide, much media coverage has suggested that his act was caused by his pain over a caricatured portrayal of him in a popular TV program. Experts caution, however, against drawing simple conclusions regarding the complex phenomenon of suicide. Research has shown that leading risk factors for suicide include mental health issues, substance abuse, and family history – with precipitating events such as bullying or a life setback forming only one part of the picture. Often, a suicide attempt comes after years of struggle. “The risk of looking just at the precipitating event is that it does not help us to understand what leads people to take their lives,” said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “If we just focus on the trigger, then we don’t think we can do anything to save lives, and we don’t learn about getting mental health treatment.”

Spark Extra! SPRC offers basic explanations of the risk and protective factors for suicide, as well as warning signs that someone may be at immediate risk.