Is there any connection between the creative imagination and depression? Suicide? What prompts an artist to decide that death is the answer? July 2, 2012 marks 51 years since the Nobel Laureate Ernest Hemingway shot himself to death. In 1984, Richard Brautigan also ended his life with a gunshot. Iris Chang died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2004. Hunter S. Thompson put a bullet through his brain in 2005. In 1941, Virginia Woolf drowned herself in a nearby river. In 1972, the poet John Berryman killed himself by jumping from a bridge. Spalding Gray and Hart Crane also chose watery ends. Many opt for medication: Swedish poet and novelist Karin Boye, Jack London, and Carolyn Heilbrun. Charlotte Perkins Gilman took an overdose of chloroform. David Foster Wallace hung himself. John Kennedy Toole died of carbon monoxide poisoning… as did Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. In 1991, Jerzy Kosinski killed himself by placing a plastic bag over his head. Michael Dorris also died of self-inflicted asphyxiation. Primo Levi threw himself down a stairway. Yukio Mishima ended his life in 1970 by committing seppuku. The list of writer suicides is long. The reasons for these exits are as varied as the means the writers chose. Some left suicide notes. Others may have left clues in their writing, or in conversations with family and friends.
Whatever these writers believed they were leaving— or heading toward— may never be known. But for some insight on depression, I recommend an article by the psychiatrist Michael Brog. You can download the pdf at this link: http://www.stlpi.org/news/perspectives/