It is hard being a celebrity in the modern world. With the connectivity and the ensuing following penetrating new zeniths with every passing second, the sheer volume of influence certain individuals can have over millions of people – and growing – is absolutely unprecedented.

With such magnitude of fame comes similar scrutiny. For, considering the number of people one can inspire, certain sections have put more responsibilities on celebrities than ever before.

What this has meant is that any tinge of bigotry, whether of the racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic variety is being taken to the sword on a regular basis, especially in the digital realm.

Any individual with a following, regardless of their stature and direct nature of responsibilities, is being increasingly held accountable for actions that could have a negative impact on the millions they influence.

Except when they decide to kill themselves.

Granted, speaking ill of the dead, regardless of how they die, is not only inopportune but could also be damaging in many cases, especially for the deceased’s loved ones. When the death comes in the shape of suicide, it is perhaps the hardest to take, especially if the person was battling depression – an illness that large parts of the world isn’t even acknowledging as such.

But there’s a not-so-fine line between respecting someone’s right to decide what they want to do with their life – including ending it – and respecting the decision itself. There’s an even more palpable line between not speaking ill of a person who has just killed themselves, and actually lauding the act.

The kind of influence Chester Bennington and Linkin Park have had on Generation Y, including in Pakistan, is unrivaled. This is why his death has perhaps garnered the strongest reaction, especially among the millennials, as compared to all the celebrities that have departed recently, including in the notorious 2016.

Bennington’s death came two months after Chris Cornell decided to kill himself. Cornell’s death perhaps impacted a wider age bracket. For, in Soundgarden and Audioslave, he fronted two bands that overlapped with the merger of two separate generation of hard rock aficionados.

Among those Cornell influenced was Bennington himself. And it was on Chris Cornell’s birthday on July 20 that Chester Bennington decided to kill himself.

Over a million people kill themselves annually. 20 times more attempt to do so. But one can’t quantify how many among those who have killed themselves after May 18, when Cornell hanged himself, and July 20, were encouraged by their hero(es) embracing death.

It is similarly impossible to gauge how many others might have been pushed closer to attempting the same in the future.

Depression itself is unquantifiable. Scales like the Hamilton Depression or Montgomery-Asburg Depression Rating – and other inventories – do offer yardsticks, but there is no definitive level that is conclusively fatal.

Therefore, there are many valiantly battling depression of a higher magnitude than others who might’ve taken their lives facing similar severity of the illness.

But if you go through the reactions to any celebrity suicide, there are many who laud the decision to take their life as brave. “I wish I had the courage to do the same,” is a remark one would find in almost every comment section of the reports outlining these suicides – multiple times over.

If it takes bravery to take one’s life, then surely those fighting their mental demons – often to fulfil responsibilities they believe they have towards others, or even as exhibits of self-determination and will – are cowards?

If the media and the liberal sections of the society are presenting the act of a famous individual taking their own lives in a gleam of glory, and now that it has become ‘cowardice’ to not kill oneself, it wouldn’t be surprising if we witness an increase in suicides – which have already risen by 18% around the world in the past 12 years.

The left’s ‘political correctness’ has given the West Shariaphiles, a growing radical brand of feminism, and the ludicrous fabrication of ‘cultural appropriation’, among other such counterfeits in the name of liberalism. But it is the silencing of criticism of the act of killing oneself – not necessarily the person themselves – that is beyond comparison.

For, this particular suicidal devotion to political correctness will directly cause deaths, by pushing people over the edge, seeking glorious bravado – an act that is termed “copycat suicide”, and has been cited as a rising cause for people taking their lives.

When Robin Williams decided to kill himself, @TheAcademy tweeted a picture of Aladdin hugging the Genie with the caption “Genie, you’re free.” Lauded by many as a wonderful tribute to Williams, there wasn’t nearly enough condemnation of a tweet, viewed by as many as 69 million people, for the direct impact it might have on those already suicidal.

It is true that only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. But not knowing what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes works both ways. One can’t substantiate the endorsement of a decision to take one’s life any more than we can qualify its condemnation.

And if one’s going to err, one might as well do it on the side of caution – not for the person who has voluntarily reduced themselves to dust, but those who might follow the glory-hunting path.

It is crucial that we qualify all tributes to celebrities who take their own lives, with a message – even if subtle – implying that they shouldn’t have taken their lives. For, while it would make little difference to the person who is no longer with us, it would indubitably save many lives.

Celebrities who augment the severity of their depression through drugs and booze, need to be held accountable, at all stages of their lives – and beyond. For, if we’re implying that even alcohol and drug abuse aren’t in people’s control, we’re simply suggesting that suicide is incurable, completely belittling the tireless efforts of many organisations working on countering it.

Suicide prevention groups need to reshape how the media has been handling celebrity suicides, before things get completely out of control.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.