Suicide Is Not Painless, Part Two: Y&R’s Chelsea Tries to Kill Herself

Last Friday on Young and the Restless, Chelsea Lawson (Melissa Claire Egan, in an excellent performance) heard voices in her head (a la a bad 50’s movie), went onto the balcony her apartment and looked down at the traffic way below on the street—contemplating committing suicide.  Thankfully Billy Abbott (Jason Thompson) arrived in time and talked her out of it.

Marlena feels very strongly that soap operas should never portray suicide.  First, I come from a family that has been touched by it.  And second, I’ve experienced chronic depression (it is actually genetic) myself. When I was in college, a bad romance caused me to go home to my parents’ house, shut myself in my room for six months—and watched soap operas.

Soaps are good for depressed people because they provide characters to love like members of our own families. That sense of company and continuity does a lot to help ease the pain of feeling hopeless. The last thing any soap should do is portray killing oneself as a solution for such horribly painful feelings.

This is not the first time I have come out about this so strongly.  In 2009 on One Life to Live, rapist Todd Manning (Roger Howarth, now Austin on General Hospital) grappled with Bo over a gun — and then jumped into the Llantano River.  In the original “Suicide is Not Painless” column on this site (, I argued against a soap portraying this and cited several other past examples.  For instance, early in OLTL’s run Lana (played by Jackie Zeman, now Bobbie on GH) actually succeeded in killing herself because she couldn’t gain the love of a heel named Brad.   Much later, drama queen Reva Shayne (Kim Zimmer) on Guiding Light tried suicide over the love of lover/husband Josh.  Other soaps have occasionally courted and tried this untouchable subject, too.

But what particularly irritates me about Y&R’s attempt last weak attempt is that CBS actually aired a warning before the episode in which Chelsea ruminated about jumping off a building. Huh?  This feeble gesture isn’t likely to discourage anyone from watching, and really doesn’t let the network off the hook. In decades of writing about soaps.  I’ve never heard of anything so presumptuous and irresponsible. Also do I have to say this again?   Are soaps so desperate for a quick ratings punch that they have to try something as dangerous and suggestive?

On the plus side, before the episode, CBS did however offer a phone number for an organization that helps people who feel suicidal.

I concur. There is help available to any viewer who feels similarly depressed. A good place to start is a national suicide hotline, 1-800-273-8255. Hang in there.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Spot on as always. A suicide did happen on Somerset summer 73 when the flawed matriarch Laura realized her daughter’s rape came after the mother lying about that young women’s entire backstory. FYI=Henry Slesar was head writer then

    • Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a Connie Passalacqua Hayman says:

      Thanks for the info on “Somerset”–the mostly excellent spin-off to “Another World.”

  2. I am actually going to have to disagree with you on this one (and on your birthday, no less, sorry! But happy birthday!).

    With suicide rates climbing, I think they’re trying to address this by showing a way for people to see the warning signs and try to intervene as Billy did. He called a professional — Sharon. Together they got her help and she didn’t succeed in her attempt. They will probably show her fight her way back better than ever to show that things CAN turn around. I think soaps should be addressing it and trying to let people know they can find help out there. It could change lives for the better, much as social issue stories did in the past (which have all but disappeared for campy, shallow stories).

    My issue is doing it with con artist Chelsea. It sort of feels like this was her way to get those who have had it with her to take another chance on her…manipulative as heck. That’s a shame cause it’s a very good message. Just wish it had been another character.

    Marlena says: Thank you Esther–this is such a controversial story, we can all agree to disagree. Good point about it being the wrong character. But it did give Melissa a chance to do a tour de force performance, one worthy of an Emmy reel. The other actors did great job too.

  3. Patrick Erwin says:

    Sorry this comment is so late….

    While I can completely understand your point of view about the depiction of suicide, I have to say that seeing the GL storyline with Reva’s suicide attempt helped me through my own depression. I say this as someone who was suicidal as a teenager, and as a survivor of a family member who died by suicide.

    It should certainly be approached gently and done with care – with a kind of nuance that perhaps budget conscious, ratings hungry soaps of today can’t always afford.

    Marlena says: Thank you for your honesty and story recollection. Suicide is such a controversial topic–sometimes soaps help-but other times they don’t. As you said, it should all be handled with great care to the soap audience.

    (PS: If you’re talking about the story GL did in the 80s, that was Reva’s despair over losing Kyle Sampson to Maeve.)

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