Our Favorite Christmas Classic Is Really a Study in American Suicide

It’s a Wonderful Life Delivers a Haunting Treatise on the Religious, Legal, and Economic Implications of Taking One’s Life

Isn’t it a little odd that our most cherished Christmas film is about a man seeking to end his life by jumping off a bridge? Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is full of traditional holiday themes like romance, friendship, and family. It’s unabashedly sentimental too—“Capra-corn” in its purest form. But it’s also a film about suicide—its causes, costs, and consequences.

The movie’s dramatic arc is built around 40-year-old George Bailey’s attempt to kill himself. The film opens with prayers offered up to heaven by townsfolk worried that George, who has …

Two Suicides in 12 Hours

Both My Cousin and Robin Williams Were Jovial, Life-of-the-Party Types. One Death Helped Me Absorb the Shock of the Other.

My cousin Armando drilled four holes on the top of his garage in Oakland, California one day and installed a mini-basketball hoop. It was the early ’80s, and the Los …

The Pitcher and the Poet

Coping with Loss in Baltimore

I never had the chance to meet Mike Flanagan, the former Baltimore Oriole pitcher and baseball executive who took his own life over the summer.

But if given the chance, I …