Successful People, Suicidal Thoughts: No One Is Immune

September 11, 2019 Natalie Cawthorne

Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide and suicidal thoughts.

When a celebrity dies by suicide, the reports that follow tend to focus on different versions of the same question: how could someone with such an awesome life be so unhappy?

The stigma of mental illness suggests that successful people have no reason to be suicidal because suicidal ideation and mental illness are dictated by external circumstances and reserved for those with difficult lives. Not only does this type of thinking perpetuate mental health stigma, but it also diminishes and shames successful people who suffer from suicidal thoughts, making them more likely to suffer in silence with fatal consequences.

Why Successful People Aren't Immune to Suicidal Thoughts

Success Isn't a Vaccine For Mental Illness

Successful people experience suicidal thoughts because success doesn't make them immune from mental illness. Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness, with 60 percent suffering from major depression. In many cases, mental illness originates internally from genetic or biological factors and is entirely unrelated to any external circumstance or experience. In other words, people can have all the success in the world, and their brains could still get sick. Mental illness doesn't discriminate, and it isn't dependent on success.

For this reason, it's crucial to reject the idea that successful people with great lives can't be depressed or suicidal because they have no reason or right to be. Faced with this sort of stigma, a person may internalize their suffering, rather than seek treatment.

Reasons Successful People Suffer Suicidal Thoughts in Silence

The world is understandably shocked when a well-loved, admired celebrity takes his or her own life, and the conversation that follows will often include comments such as, "He seemed so happy," or "She was always smiling." The following are some key reasons why successful people may be prone to silent suffering:

  • Guilt -- They recognize that they have it all and don't understand why they're still depressed, resulting in guilt that may make them feel unworthy or undeserving of the resources and support that could help them.
  • Shame -- They are ashamed of being depressed or suicidal when their life is so privileged compared to most.
  • Stigma -- The stigma that mental illness must look a certain way or result from a difficult circumstance may cause successful people to refrain from seeking treatment.
  • Fear of judgment or rejection -- Being viewed as ungrateful, entitled, or weak may prevent a person from opening up about their suffering. Successful people may feel that seeking help for suicidal thoughts would result in rejection because they consider themselves undeserving of support.
  • The maintaining of appearances -- For people who are used to non-stop success, the idea of attending therapy, joining a support group, or checking into a mental health facility may be interpreted as weakness or failure, deterring them from considering the benefits of these resources.

When it comes to mental illness or suicidal thoughts, there are no criteria for suffering, and success does not invalidate someone's pain. No one is immune to suicidal thoughts, and we are all worthy of help regardless of circumstances.

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

APA Reference
Cawthorne, N. (2019, September 11). Successful People, Suicidal Thoughts: No One Is Immune, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Author: Natalie Cawthorne

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