postheadericon Kuire Ko Kura: On Bathtubs and Suicides

This week the news of another star's super nova into the beyond hit me in ways I would not have expected, with Whitney Houston being found dead in a bathtub surrounded by empty prescription pill bottles. She apparently was having "One of Those Days" ...

"Tonight, it's all about me
Just wanna set my body free
Never mind the TV
Tonight I'll just let a little TV watch me
Light the candles, aroma therapy
Hot tub bubbles surrounding me
Mr. Big is in the background
The Isley Brothers gonna hold it down..."
Lyrics from One of Those Days, 1998

I have never taken the idea of suicide lightly, as for as far back as I can remember, suicides have taken a bit of the life out of myself as well, from Janis Joplin to past friends to a recent family member, those lost lives have left me feeling a bit less alive as well. The tragedy of losing a loved one in this way, whether it's from within your own bloodline or from memories of standing in a long concert line to see a favorite star, the loss is tangible and heartfelt.

But the demise of Whitney got me thinking along the lines of why o' why do entertainers who seem to have it all, give away their life so easily? So of course, I googled "Why pop stars commit suicide" but learned little from the blogosphere. Snide comments and trivial explanations abound there... from comments that could not be repeated in any newspaper, to bland explanations of depression, dollars, and addiction.

But what if suicide is not such an unnatural act that many of us want to make it out as; and even though suicide hurts everyone - what if suicide is just as natural as anything else between birth and death that we can muster up? Or is suicide the unnatural (and in many cases illegal) act that our governments, priests and parents tell us it is?

I did have the thought that entertainment-industry suicides might be an occupational hazard, like slipping on a microphone cable, since it does seem that within the industry, suicides of grand performers seems synonymous with success. So prevalent is performer suicide, that there is the Encyclopedia of Suicides in the Entertainment Industry, authored by David F. Frasier, who chronicled 840 twentieth century cases, and was inspired to do so after preventing singer and actress Marianne Faithfull from dying of self-slit wrists. From Acland, Chris to Zanuck, mistress Carol Landis, this book is a diary of death for some of the greats of our time.

Of course the artists that I remember off the top of my head where all rock & roll suicides, which in my time, even the music was considered a major cause of teen suicide: Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Tom Evans (Badfinger), Michael Mackenzie (INXS), Vincent Crane (Atomic Rooster) and many more. And then there are the drug- and alcohol –related deaths that technically were not suicides, but overdoses instead: Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious, Brent Mydland, Tommy Bolin, and perhaps even Michael Jackson could be included here if one counts doctor- assisted overdoses.

All westerners so far in my research list, so I had to ask myself: was entertainment suicide a western phenomenon? Apparently not, as when googling up Asian Pop Star Suicides, I found plenty - mostly from Japan, China, and Korea.  My Asian suicide search also lead me to another disturbing statistic a bit closer to home: Suicide #1 Cause of Death For Nepali Women.

Huh? In a study done by the Family Health Division of the Department of Health Services Nepal, it was found that suicides led in the cause of death for woman of reproductive age by 16%, nearly double for accidents at 9%, followed by what the researchers were expecting to find (maternal health issues). Contributing factors to this high rate of woman suicides is said to be mental health, relationship, marital problems and youth in general, as 21% of suicides noted were women under the age of 21. There was no mention of drugs, alcohol or fame being a contributing factor here.

So where did this leave me in morbid contemplation? Since America ranks 41st in the world for suicide rates, and over 30,000 Americans end their life this way each year, with older adults disproportionally choosing to end their life in this way, and with tough economic conditions listed high on the list of causes, I don't think dead pop stars in bathtubs are the folks that the mainstream media should be making all the fuss about. It seems everyone is doing it, and in greater numbers then ever before.


Who the heck is he?

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Kathmandu, Nepal
I'm retired, and I walk my dog... a lot.

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