SAD - Suicide, Alcohol, and Drugs: Deaths in the Entertainment Industry
By: John Mitchell
Publisher: Maple Creek Media
Publication Date: July 2011
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 2011
It seems like there’s a new celebrity in the news each week struggling with their drug or alcohol addiction. And too often we soon read of their drug or alcohol related death. Vowing to bring attention to this problem and “stopping names from being added to the SAD Death List,” author John Mitchell has penned a new book with the simple title, SAD. An acronym for Suicide, Alcohol, and Drugs, the author takes a look at these serious problems within the entertainment industry.
While making a point that SAD deaths happen to all sorts of people, in all industries, author John Mitchell choose to focus his research on the entertainment business for two primary reasons. First, actors, musicians, and those in related professions are highly visible. Many people, particularly young fans, watch their daily movements closely and sometimes look to them as a role model. When these celebrities succumb to their demons, we see them fall too and this can have a profound effect. If, argues the author, we can turn that around and encourage these same stars to go public with their problems and successfully fight them off, then maybe their open struggle might just turn the tide on drug and alcohol use in this country.
The other reason for writing this book is much more personal. The author lost a dear friend, Bobby Hatfield, a member of the Righteous Brothers, to a cocaine overdose. He also lost his beloved step-daughter, who succumbed after her first experiment with heroin. These unnecessary deaths must stop now, insists the author, and only by bringing the discussion out to the forefront will attitudes begin to change.
The first half of SAD is a frank discussion of suicide, alcohol and drugs. After an introduction in which the author gives a brief overview of the problem and emphasizing that the individual thus afflicted “must want to stop” before change can happen, he moves on to devote a chapter each to suicide, addictions and drugs. Mitchell then takes a look at the entertainment industry and why it seems plagued with such problems. The next chapter, “Rest in Peace” takes a look at several celebrities who seemed to have it all but left this world too soon because of their addictions. Meant to give the reader a wake-up call, it certainly succeeds as reading about John Belushi and Janis Joplin, and remembering how talented and young they were when they died, gives the reader pause.
After the first several chapters the author presents his “Sad Death List” – the key focus of this book. In alphabetical order, he presents page upon page of people in the entertainment industry who lost their lives to suicide, drugs, or alcohol. The name, date of birth and death, occupation (musician, actor, singer, etc.) and cause of death are listed. Reading through the list, you will be reminded of so many celebrities such as River Phoenix, Freddie Prinze, and Chris Penn, who were lost to addiction. There are also many on the list that the reader may not be familiar with such as Scotty Beckett or Zac Foley, but their impact is no less – this is a list of lost opportunity and death.
The second section of the book takes a bit of a turn and presents an “Information Guide on Behavioral and Other Issues.” With chapters on topics such as depression, self-esteem, and abandonment issues, the author discusses things that might regrettably turn someone to alcohol or drugs. Mitchell also looks at things that can help a person, with chapters on positive thinking, journalizing, and health and wellness.
The chapters on each topic in SAD are quite brief and provide a basic overview of each problem. There are not a lot of quoted statistics or research notes cited within its pages and the presentation is rather simplistic. Regardless, the author, in an easy to follow, conversational style, presents a summary of each topic, how it can hurt and what you can do if faced with such problems. His personal anecdotes, such as his experiences with bullying, are the highlight of the book and will hit home with many readers. For example, in the section on bullying, we see what effect the constant teasing had on one student in Mitchell’s school many years ago. These anecdotes may help someone faced with a similar problem.
To his credit, the author does not present just the negatives within the entertainment industry but also looks at some of the positives, such as a rapper who “got clean,” and added that message to one of his songs. By doing that, argues the author, the rapper is potentially reaching thousands upon thousands of youth with his message of “don’t do drugs.”
Quill says: SAD sheds light on the disturbing trend of lives lost to suicide, alcohol and drugs and offers some hopeful solutions to today’s youth.