Attempting suicide is no small thing; it’s one of the most serious decisions a person can make. It essentially means they have given up all hope of finding happiness, achieving what they want, or getting out from under the difficulties life throws their way. Millions of people all around the world attempt to kill themselves every single year, and a significant percentage are successful.
These acts leave a hole in the lives of those who cared for them, and many of those family members and friends left behind recount the same idea: they had no idea that person was even thinking about ending their life. Suicide and just the mere thought of ending one’s life is a very personal act and most people tend to keep these thoughts to themselves.
Celebrities are no different than the rest of us and are prone to depression, anxiety, and other emotional challenges. However, they are also under intense scrutiny and public criticism, especially if they do or say something that is offensive or their work is deemed to be unworthy of credit of adoration.
Here are 20 celebrities who you may not have known tried to kill themselves. There are many others, and even those who were, unfortunately for the rest of us, successful.
20. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore was cast into the spotlight at a young age in the movie E.T. She eventually went on to star in other films, and she began getting involved in drugs and alcohol at a young age as well. She struggled with bipolar disorder for many years and after leaving a drug and alcohol rehab facility when she was just 14, she attempted to kill herself. Barrymore managed to get the right level of help and kicked her addictive habit, turned her life around. She has said that she would rather be like the ocean, with its soft currents rather than the highs and lows.
19. Elton John
Musical icon Elton John is renowned around the world as being one of the greatest rock pianists and eccentric performers of all time, but he also spent much of that career hiding his true sexual orientation. It’s hard to imagine that it’s only been recently considered acceptable for people to be openly gay, but through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, it was deemed to be something people kept to themselves. When he attempted to kill himself by putting his head in a gas stove, he was engaged to Linda Woodrow. It’s safe to assume he didn’t want to live a lie.
18. Tina Turner
Tina Turner is no stranger to controversy or abuse. During her career, she was reportedly beaten by her musical partner and lover Ike Turner and it wasn’t until she finally broke free and branched out on her own that she managed to escape his shadow, and his abuse. However, even through all of her success, in 1986 she apparently tried to kill herself. She admitted this in an autobiography she published and talked about the trying times that had pushed her over the edge, to the point where she felt it was simply better or easier than dealing with the pain in her life.
17. Walt Disney
One of the most iconic images of fun and family time together is Walt Disney. He created such memorable characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and so many others. He also created Disneyland and helped bring many incredible movies to life that touched the lives of millions of children around the world. Yet he struggled early in his career and was once told he had no creative talent. When he was 31, he attempted to take his own life by overdosing on drugs and alcohol. Imagine the world without Disney today and it’s easy to be thankful he wasn’t successful.
16. Billy Joel
Billy Joel may look like he’s lived a charmed life, but he had his share of problems and challenges when he was growing up, just like anyone else. In 1970, before his career took off and he became known as the Piano Man, Billy Joel apparently drank furniture polish in an attempt to end his own life. He hasn’t been overly forthcoming about the events that led up to that moment, but the 66-year-old has certainly built an empire with his musical talents and business acumen.
Eminem burst onto the music scene in 1997 with his hit “The Real Slim Shady,” but that moment almost never happened. He was distraught after having his girlfriend at the time leave him and preventing him from seeing his daughter. He had dealt with abandonment by both of his parents through his life and this act seemed to push him over the edge. He took a large quantity of Tylenol in an attempt to overdose. Fortunately he wasn’t successful and he managed to bring his unique brand of art to the rest of the world.
14. Drew Carey
Drew Carey has become an icon in the comedic world, and like so many other incredibly talented comedians, he had his share of demons that followed him around. Long before he broke onto the mainstream scene and launched The Drew Carey Show, he attempted to kill himself when he was 18 years old. He also attempted to end his life when he was 20. When someone usually attempts to take their own life a second time, they’re more focused, but for Drew Carey, he is lucky to be alive today.
13. Britney Spears
Britney Spears ruled the pop charts for so long that it’s hard to think she’s no longer standing under that bright, glaring light. And while it’s easy to see the success that she had so early on in life, there have been numerous problems not just in her career but also in her personal life. From tabloid stories, bad press, and some less than stellar reviews of her recent releases, she has reportedly attempted suicide on more than one occasion. She has two young boys and there was no word on whether or not they have any knowledge of this or what type of professional help Britney has been seeking to help her overcome this depression.
12. Artie Lange
Artie Lange has been a comedian who isn’t used to not being in the spotlight or dealing with controversy. A long-time Howard Stern associate, Artie Lange became so distraught, stressed, and depressed with his life in 2010 that he attempted to commit suicide in a way that is far from ordinary. He stabbed himself multiple times with a knife. The former taxi driver turned comedian wasn’t successful, and we’re betting that his recovery took a bit longer than it might have if he didn’t use a knife on himself.
11. Shelley Long
Shelley Long may be best known for her role in Cheers as the annoying and perpetually haughty Diane, and her troubles on the set are legendary. She reportedly fought and argued with fellow cast members, producers, and directors and eventually decided to abandon the show in pursuit of her movie career. That didn’t pan out all too well with one flop after another and in 2004 she apparently attempted to overdose on pain pills. The 66 year old appears to have straightened things out and living life to the fullest.
10. Peter Fonda
An iconic name within Hollywood, Peter Fonda had to endure the loss of his mother to suicide when he was just 10 years old. Just a few months after that loss, he was found shot in the stomach by his own hand. For most of his life after that incident, Peter Fonda claimed that it was an accident, but many who knew him believed that this was his first (and perhaps only) reported attempt on his own life. He recovered from his injuries and went on to become an accomplished actor and director.
9. Patty Duke
Author, actor, singer, and writer Patty Duke has brought many incredible works to the world, but she has also dealt with a number of issues in her personal life. For many years she apparently attempted to commit suicide through various means, but was (fortunately) unsuccessful. She was finally diagnosed as being manic depressive after numerous attempts and since sought out and found the help she desperately needed in order to overcome these issues.
8. Mike Tyson
When Mike Tyson was in his prime, he was untouchable in the boxing ring. He was so feared that it has been reported some boxers took falls in the first round rather than to risk being struck by one of his fierce uppercuts. However, he was managed by Don King and has subsequently stated that he believes King took advantage of him, manipulated him, and that led to severe depression. He was also sent to prison for sexual assault and when he was released, his career never got back on track. He ended up getting involved in drugs an attempted to take his own life.
7. Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra lived a life that was rife with emotional turmoil, trials and tribulations, and he even suffered from several bouts of depression. He was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder and due to a deep love for Ava Gardener, his second wife, he attempted suicide twice due to their tumultuous relationship. He even attempted to slash his own wrists while staying at a friend’s apartment, but Jimmy Van Heusen returned unexpectedly and ultimately saved Sinatra’s life. He made several attempts on his own life due to his love of Ava, but finally gave up both, divorced, and ultimately passed away in 1998 of a heart attack.
6. Micky Dolenz
While a tremendously successful musician for The Monkees in the 1970s, Mickey Dolenz was also dealing with a number of personal issues. One day the musician decided to attempt to end his own life by walking out into the middle of a busy city street and sitting down in traffic. The attempt wasn’t successful, though there was no word about whether or not traffic was tied up during this incident, and the now 70-year-old enjoys life with his children and still plays the drums when he can.
5. Nadia Comaneci
Nadia Comaneci was one of the greatest gymnasts in the world during the 1970s. Just two years after her incredible success at the 1976 Olympics, she attempted to kill herself by drinking bleach. She denied any such thing for many years until finally admitting that she had been depressed and under an intense amount of pressure during that time. She attributed part of her depression to her parents’ divorce, but it’s also safe to assume that being highly competitive, young, and constantly in the spotlight and under pressure took its toll on her.
4. Owen Wilson
Owen Wilson has portrayed a wide range of characters, but is most commonly associated with comedic and affable ones. On August 26, 2007 he had a reported fight with a close friend and decided to attempt to end his life. Frequently having difficulty with drugs and alcohol, Wilson was found bloodied and unconscious, having overdosed on pills and slit his wrists. He was rushed to the hospital and shortly after being discharged withdrew from filming Tropic Thunder, a project he had been planning to star in. He has since kept a low profile with regard to films and interviews.
3. Halle Berry
Following the collapse of her marriage to David Justice, Halle Berry became so depressed that she contemplated suicide. She made her attempt by carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s not fully clear whether this was done in her car, but she admits the only thing that really saved her at that time was the thought of her mother finding her body. She stopped what she was doing, sought help to overcome her depression, and vowed to never marry again. She has become a strong, happy, and successful woman in the years since.
2. Sammy Davis Jr.
One of the true musical geniuses of our time, Sammy Davis Jr. was not only a fun-loving and charismatic person, he also was under constant assault due to his race, religious beliefs, and appearance. On the night of his wedding to Loray White, he attempted to commit suicide when he put a gun to his head. The gun was wrestled from his hand in time and it was later discovered that he was secretly in love with a different actress, Kim Novak, but because of the interracial aspect, threats against him were too great and he couldn’t bear the thought of not being with her.
1. Princess Diana
Few people touched the lives of so many as much as Princess Diana did during her short life. Yet while she was still a newlywed, she admitted to a biographer that she had attempted suicide several times during her short life. As many people witnessed through the years, Princess Diana was not one prone to be in the spotlight and yet she was followed and harassed everywhere she went, to the point where it cost her life in that tragic accident. One time she admitted she deliberately fell down a flight of stairs while pregnant with her first son (William), though Buckingham Palace will not confirm nor deny any such event took place.