Promoting Hope, Preventing Suicide

Research and advice on preventing teen and adult suicide

“I’m good. I’m fine. I’m better.”

Fantasia Barrino opens up about her suicide attempt

I thought a lot about whether or not to write about American Idol Fantasia Barrino's suicide attempt between the time it first hit the press two weeks ago to just yesterday, when Fantasia went on Good Morning America to talk about her experience. There are a lot of good reasons not to write about celebrity suicide or suicide attempts, not the least of which is that people look to celebrities as role models and suicide is not model behavior.

But, when I heard that Fantasia would be talking about her suicide attempt, I thought, "Hey, this isn't just any celebrity." First of all, American Idol is a show about real people. Fantasia is famous because of her win, and her win was based on her talent. She's not famous because she has famous parents, or famous because she's dating someone famous. Underneath that fame, she might look a bit like the rest of us.

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So, I watched as she talked out the feelings that led to her attempt. I was wrong - she isn't just like the rest of us, unless the rest of us are stressed out because of paparazzi and press coverage of our lives. But, still, we do have some things in common.

Like many, she's never talked about her feelings in a formal way. As she said, "I've never spoken with someone and put it all out there."

She's been meeting with a life coach since her suicide attempt. As they talked about what led to her attempt, he drew for her a picture of an iceberg. He identified the tip as what people see - the glitz, the glamour. Underneath is what people don't get to see - pain, loneliness, past losses and fears.

He asked her: "Which side are you going to show?"

In her interview on Good Morning America, she said, "I thought I was saying the wrong thing, but I said, ‘I think I'm gonna show both.'"

We all have private selves and public selves. We all have the self we show and the self we hide. What if we showed both?

What if we knew that people would love and accept both our glamour and our fear, our glitz and our pain?

It was after her suicide attempt that Fantasia realized, "there are people who love and support me and who want to see me keep going."

The suicide prevention message from her story is two-fold. One, let's show both sides. Not all the time, not all at once, but sometimes, when you need to. Two, let's accept both sides. Let's be better friends, parents, partners. Let's try not to expect the people in our lives to be perfect, and let's try not to expect ourselves to be perfect. Life is hard enough without being our own worst critic, our own paparazzi.

Copyright 2010 Elana Premack Sandler, All Rights Reserved

Elana Premack Sandler, L.C.S.W., M.P.H., is a public health social worker specializing in violence and injury prevention and adolescent health promotion.

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