14 People Who Have Taken Their Own Lives In Public

The act of public suicide has been used to protest wars, highlight religious oppression, and call out government corruption. Public suicide also casts a stark light on how mental illness is often overlooked or misunderstood even now. Regardless of the reason, these public suicides remain in the memories of those who witnessed them, oftentimes decades after the event itself.

In this list, we'll tell the stories of 14 people who took their own lives in public and the legacies these stories left behind.

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  • Romas Kalanta
    Photo: Vilensija / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Romas Kalanta completed one of the most high-profile self-immolation protests in modern history. The young Lithuanian man took his own life on May 14, 1972, in front of the Kaunas State Musical Theatre near Laisves Aleja. Kalanta doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze, succumbing to his burn injuries several hours later.

    His death provoked a number of post-war riots, as well as at least 13 other self-immolation suicides. While Soviet propaganda described Kalanta as mentally ill, Lithuania saw his death as a statement of solidarity. In 2000, Lithuania posthumously awarded Kalanta the Order of the Cross of Vytis, an honor for those who have heroically defended Lithuania’s freedom and independence.

    • Age: Dec. at 19 (1953-1972)
    • Birthplace: Alytus, Lithuania
  • Dimitris Christoulas

    Dimitris Christoulas
    Photo: ΑΝώΔυΝος / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Dimitris Christoulas, a 77-year-old retired pharmacist, completed suicide at Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece, just outside of parliament, on April 4, 2012. Christoulas, whose last words were "I am not committing suicide, they are killing me," shot himself in protest of the Greek government's austerity measures that slashed his pension.

    In his suicide note, Christoulas stated that he'd rather die than scavenge for food. He wrote, "The occupation government... has literally wiped out my ability to survive, based on a respectable pension which I had paid for during a 35-year period... I find no other solution for a dignified end before I start sifting through garbage to feed myself."

  • Christine Chubbuck
    Video: YouTube

    Christine Chubbuck first worked as a television news reporter for ABC Channel 40 in Sarasota, FL, before later receiving her own local community affairs talk show, Suncoast Digest. Chubbuck was known to be dedicated to the series, often tackling serious issues like alcoholism, drug addiction, and even suicide. Chubbuck, however, also dealt with serious issues of her own, including depression and low self-esteem.

    On July 15, 1974, Chubbuck opened her show with an odd claim that she was required to read local news to start the program. After reading some news stories, Chubbuck stated, "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first - attempted suicide." She then pulled a revolver and shot herself in the head.

    • Age: Dec. at 29 (1944-1974)
    • Birthplace: Hudson, Ohio
  • Emily Wilding Davison

    Emily Wilding Davison
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Emily Wilding Davison devoted her life to working as a women's suffrage activist and was widely known for her militant, confrontational, and often violent tactics. Many times, she was arrested and imprisoned for her campaigns, which included arson and assault.

    On June 4, 1913, Davison attended the Epson Derby in England - though her exact motive for the visit, either for pleasure or protest, is disputed. Just as the stable of horses, including one belonging to King George V, reached her position on the track, Davison stepped out on the course and lunged into their path. She was trampled nearly to death in the incident, suffering internal injuries and a fractured skull. She died four days later.