We sure do hear a lot about homicides in the news and on the Internet. Alas, despite the incessant coverage of the latest and greatest mass shooting or botched robbery, the CDC data makes it clear as day: Americans killing other Americans is nowhere near as big a social problem as Americans killing themselves.
The numbers are unmistakable. On average, there are about 15,000 annual homicides in the U.S. That’s a lot, to be sure, but the number of suicides, at about 42,000 per year, nearly triples that sum. For all the hubbub we hear about firearm violence, how peculiar it is that more people kill themselves via suffocation than there are gun homicides in the U.S. each year (and for the record – yes, the nation’s gun suicide rate is nearly twice as high as its gun murder rate.)
Despite being such a common occurrence – it’s the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, for crying aloud – the topic of suicide remains shrouded in a needless stigma. Even now, the topic is often framed as a sign of supposed “mental defectiveness” one ought to be greatly ashamed of. Even the media shies away from “normalizing” suicide, out of the baseless fear that frankly discussing it and its root causes may magically cause more people to off themselves.
As it turns out, a lot of immensely important people have attempted to kill themselves, only to learn the grave error of their impulsive mistakes, survive, and then go on to have incredibly successful careers as entertainers, athletes, business leaders and yes, even national heroes. Looking for a good reason to abstain from offing yourself? Take a cue from the ten formerly suicidal folks below, who stared death in the face, came back from the icy brink of the sepulcher and totally won at life…
1. Johnny Cash
A Country Legend Attempts Suicide By Spelunking
In 1967, Johnny Cash was mired in a deep addiction to amphetamines and barbiturates. Abandoning all hope, the beloved country crooner drove to Nickajack Cave in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he aspired to get totally lost in the pitch blackness and die. After a few hours, however, he claims to have heard the voice of God himself telling him to hang in there; when he eventually found his way out of the caverns, he was greeted by his wife and mother, who later said they felt drawn to the site because they sensed something wasn’t quite right with the Man in Black. He would go on to record music for another three and a half decades – winning heaps of Grammys along the way – before succumbing to natural causes in 2003.
2. Micky Dolenz
A Member of the Monkees Purposely Plays in Traffic
Micky Dolenz, drummer and singer for the made-for-TV boy band The Monkees, was so distraught after his wife left him in the mid 1970s that he tried to kill himself – by getting rip-roaring drunk on Scotch and sitting in the middle of a roadway with the hopes of being splattered by an inattentive motorist. It’s an eerie example of life imitating art, as several years earlier, the cult classic musical Head literally began with Dolenz acting out a suicide attempt. At 71, Dolenz is still alive and kicking, though – in fact, he and the surviving members of the Monkees are still touring and he’s probably about $9 million richer than anybody reading this.
3. Elton John
He Nearly DID Let The Sun Go Down On Him
Hey, you know that Elton John song “Somebody Saved My Life Tonight?” Well, it’s based on a true story – specifically, the time John collaborator Bernie Taupin literally yanked his head out of an oven to keep him from asphyxiating on gas. It wasn’t the only time the flamboyant frontman tried to check out of the mortal coil, though. John also tried to kill himself by downing 60 Valiums a few years later – ironically, smackdab in the middle of “Elton John Week” in Los Angeles. Now 69, the “Rocket Man” remains one of the most successful musicians on the planet, raking in an impressive $42 million in 2016 alone.
4. Princess Diana
One Intentional Fall Almost Wipes Out Two Royals
According to biographer Andrew Morton, Princess Di almost died five times in the early 1980s. In the 1992 tome Diana: Her True Story, the author describes how the British royal attempted suicide by flinging herself through a glass cabinet, slitting her wrists with razor blades, trying to open her veins with a lemon slicer and literally hacking herself with penknife. The most serious attempt, however, occurred in 1982, when Lady Di took a dive down a flight of stairs; at the time, she was three months pregnant with the future Prince William. While Di’s life was cut short in a 1997 auto accident, her legacy is undeniable: more than 15 years after her death she is still regarded as the consensus pick for most beloved British royal in history.
5. Billy Joel
The Piano Man Tries To Polish Himself Off With Actual Polish
When he was in his early 20s, Billy Joel almost stopped the fire when he decided “the world didn’t need another another failed musician” and attempted to end his own life. His method? He swigged down an entire bottle of furniture polish, primarily because he thought drinking bleach would’ve been too nasty. In 2008, he recounted the outcome of his suicidal exploits: “All I ended up doing was farting furniture polish for a couple of days and polishing my mother’s chairs.” Since then, old furniture polish farter hasn’t accomplished too much – you know, just really unimpressive stuff, like selling 100 million albums worldwide, getting 23 Grammy nods (and counting) and having a net worth of $180 million.
6. Ken Griffey, Jr.
A Home Run Hero Attempts an OTC OD
Ken Griffey, Jr. is rightfully considered one of the greatest sluggers in the history of professional baseball – in fact, had he not been saddled with injuries later in his career, he almost certainly would’ve claimed the all-time home run record. That said, his historic Hall of Fame career almost came to a halt as soon as it began: at the tender age of 18, a depressed and distraught Griffey sought to end his own life by swallowing nearly 300 aspirins in one sitting. A visit to the the ICU saved Griffey’s life, thus ensuring him a long and prosperous career in the Major League (and by association, two really awesome baseball games on the Super Nintendo in the mid-1990s.)
Before He Lost Himself in the Music, He Almost Lost His Life
In 1996, Marshall “Eminem” Mathers was a struggling Detroit-area rapper whose debut album “Infinite” was a colossal financial flop. After his girlfriend Kim left him and he lost custody of his daughter, the dejected artist sought to end it all via a Tylenol overdose. Mathers survived the attempt and less than a year later, one of his mixtapes was discovered by rap producer extraordinaire Dr. Dre – and since then, the once-suicidal rapper has “only” gone on to sell an estimated 172 million albums worldwide.
8. Vanilla Ice
He Nearly Died, Died Baby
By 1994, Vanilla Ice’s career had – pardon the pun – melted. His big post “Ice, Ice, Baby” comeback attempt was a critical and financial disaster, and he sought to kill himself on two separate occasions that year. In recent interviews, he describes he how tried to off himself via intentional heroin, ecstasy and cocaine overdoses; he has since gotten clean and continued to pump out a steady stream of albums, now only committing lesser offenses, such as stealing furniture out of his neighbor’s homes and unleashing wallaroos on the city streets of Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Yes, Even Oprah Tried To Off Herself …
Multimedia mega-billionaire empress Oprah Winfrey is oft-regarded as the most powerful woman in America. Alas, the daytime TV queen turned conglomerate monarch nearly never rose to power due to self-inflicted injuries – twice. The first incident occurred when she was 14 and sought to kill herself and her unborn child by drinking laundry detergent. She allegedly attempted to end it all again in 1981, when she drove her car into a tree upon learning that her then-lover was married and already had kids. But today? There’s at least 2.9 billion reasons why the self-made icon isn’t too likely to attempt suicide again.
10. Martin Luther King, Jr.
… And So Did The Leader Of The Civil Rights Movement
Throughout American history, only four people have ever been honored with a national holiday. Of the four, Martin Luther King, Jr., is the only one to have been born after the 1800s. And believe it or not, the great Civil Rights leader came this close to dying before he even reached puberty. So distraught over visiting a parade against his parents’ wishes and not being there when his grandmother died of a sudden heart attack, a guilt-ridden King tried to commit suicide by jumping out of the second story window of his home … at the ripe old age of just 12.
Which, of course, is reason enough for us to be wary of those who attempt suicide. After all, those people we oh-so casually label as “crazy” might just go on to do something really out there … you know, like become bona fide American heroes.