Singer-Songwriter Vic Chestnutt Dead at 45

Singer-Songwriter Vic Chestnutt has died of suicide. The 45 year old, whose songs have been covered by artists such as REM, Smashing Pumpkins, and Madonna, has been paralyzed since a car accident at age 18. He had been touring with his Vic Chestnutt Band over the past year, and had also put out two albums. Earlier in the week, he had taken muscle relaxants, and was in a coma until he died yesterday. Recently, Chestnutt had struggled with a lawsuit filed by a Georgia hospital after he racked up surgery bills totaling some $70,000.  The Athens (Georgia) Banner Herald reported “he couldn’t afford more than hospitalization insurance and couldn’t keep up with the payments.”

Suicide is the eleventh most common cause of death in the United States
. People may consider suicide when they are hopeless and can’t see any other solution to their problems. Often it’s related to serious depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or a major stressful event.

People who have the highest risk of suicide are white men, though women and teens report more suicide attempts. If someone talks about suicide, you should take it seriously. Urge them to get help from their doctor or the emergency room, or call 911.

Therapy and medicines can help most people who have suicidal thoughts. Treating mental illnesses and substance abuse can reduce the risk of suicide.

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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