A recurring concern among mental health professionals is that there is an erroneous tendency in society to seek a specific cause for suicide. This has been the case with the death of the actress Verónica Forqué, last Monday at his home in Madrid. His most recent public interventions were in the TVE contest MasterChef Celebrity. Forqué admitted at various times during the program that he was emotionally ill, to the point of abandoning his participation. MasterChef is now on the target of public opinion because the actress’s extravagant behavior was a source of derision from her peers in the Show and by the audience. “Blaming the program for what happened is a leap into the void,” warns Javier García Campayo, psychiatrist at the Miguel Servet University Hospital (Zaragoza).
3,941 people committed suicide in Spain in 2020, according to data from the National Statistics Institute (INE), 7.4% more than in 2019. It is the leading cause of unnatural death in Europe. The suicide rate in Spain per 100,000 inhabitants is slightly higher than 8; the European average, according to the World Health Organization, exceeds 10.5. “A wide combination of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors, which are in continuous and dynamic interaction, seems to explain why someone decides to attempt suicide”, wrote last June in the journal of the Official College of Psychology of Madrid two renowned academics, Susana Al-Halabí, professor at the University of Oviedo, and Eduardo Fonseca-Pedrero, from the University of La Rioja. His conclusion is that “linear causal interpretations, or single-cause interpretations, don’t fit.”
Last June the doctoral thesis was presented Suicide committed in people over 65 in the Community of Madrid (University of Murcia). In this work, its author, the criminologist Rafael Jerez, provides a particularly alarming fact: in the 2013-2018 period, the suicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants among those over 65 in Madrid was higher than 39. Forqué was 66 years old and a woman. In his age group – which goes from 65 to 69 years – 24% of suicides in Spain were committed by women and 76% by men. Jerez explains that “the suicidal act in the elderly person is premeditated and reflective, not impulsive as it is generally in other ages”.
Forqué also had extensive experience in terms of media exposure. “In the world of show business, situations of this type are common. And the older a person is, the more capacity they have to deal with blows than in an adolescent, for example, they have more impact ”, says García Campayo. What this doctor from the Miguel Servet hospital and professor at the University of Zaragoza does consider is that the program should have been more cautious: “It has been said that the performance of the program is criticizable and I agree, because if you see their appearances it is evident that this person was not well, possibly suffering from an illness. And it was too much for her.
Forqué had detailed in several interviews that he had recently gone through a severe depression after a sentimental separation. In December 2020, in the program Save me Deluxe On Tele5, she commented that she was also a daily marijuana user. Drugs and alcohol trigger suicidal tendencies, the experts consulted agree. “Drugs in general, and marijuana in particular, do not help at all, especially if you suffer from a mental illness. Because you lose control capacity or because there are moments of despair when you lack it ”, says Antonio Serrano, attached to the Mental Health department of the Sant Joan de Deu Health Park (Barcelona).
In the presentation of the contestants of MasterChef, the actress already exposed the vulnerability of her mental health. She was introduced as the winner of four Goya awards, to which she replied: “I am fed up with the Goya, that was many years ago. I am in a very difficult moment, forgive me. I can’t take any more of Verónica Forqué, I can’t take more of this person. I like Vero. What Show I’m riding”. Forqué left the program last November claiming that he was not well enough to withstand the pressure.
Serrano also stresses that medicine does not speak of a cause of suicide: “There are circumstances that weigh more, and personal baggage or social support are important. There may be a trigger, but that is not the cause. Suicide is a multifactorial event ”.
Ariadna Rogero is a spokesperson for Obertament, an organization in Catalonia dedicated to fighting the stigma of mental illness. Rogero suggests that one possibility is that televisions, especially a public channel, have a committee of experts who evaluate aspects of mental health in programming. One question would be whether it was optimal for Forqué to participate in MasterChef. “It certainly doesn’t help, and it’s clear that mental health can’t be a show.” But it cannot be the only cause, according to Rogero: “Saying that someone committed suicide because they bullying, or because they evicted her, is something that we frequently find in the media and it is frivolous with the complexity of mental health ”. “Speculating on the reasons that lead someone to take their own life is superfluous and frivolous. The media should emphasize solutions, “says Rogero, and concludes that society as a whole” is responsible for the taboo and isolation suffered by the sick person. “
If you need help:
- Hope Phone: 717 003 717
- Prevention, dissemination and training program of the Spanish Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.prevensuic.org
- Web for mental health problems in young people. Mind-u.cat
- Association for suicide prevention The yellow girl.
- Anar Foundation, Helps children and adolescents at risk. www.anar.org. Free helpline for minors: 900 20 20 10
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Verónica Forqué: the mistake of looking for guilty of a suicide