The suicide of Tony Scott director of legendary films Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State and a host of other blockbuster movies has shocked the entertainment world.
Tony, brother of fellow director Ridley Scott, jumped to his death from a Los Angeles suspension bridge early on Sunday afternoon. The contents of a suicide note found in Scott's office have not been revealed, but rumours are circulating that the director may have had a brain tumour.
That has yet to be confirmed, but one thing is certain. Tony Scott joins the tragically long roll call of men who have taken the same course.
Suicide is three times more common among men than women and recent reports suggest that suicide particularly among men is again on the rise. According to Oxford University's Centre for Suicide Research, there are now "considerably more deaths from suicide than from road traffic accidents."
So Tony Scott aside, why do so many men make this almost unthinkable choice? And what can be done to stop such a tragic waste of life?
Why more men?
So economic woes may be fuelling a rise in suicides, particularly among men. But women are hit just as hard by financial problems, and even before the global financial crisis more men committed suicide than women. So one fundamental question remains. Why do so many more men choose to take their own lives?
It's probably true to say that no-one is quite sure. One theory is that men kill themselves more often because they use more lethal means of self-harm.
"Part of the explanation for the male/female discrepancy in rates of completed suicide may be due to men's utilising more violent and more lethal suicide methods," writes Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal MD in her research paper 'Suicide and Gender'.
By which she means that jumping off a bridge is a more certain means to an end than overdosing on pills, which is potentially survivable if discovered early. More men choose the most violent methods of committing suicide.
Male self-esteem to blame?
But most experts think there is more to it than that. A high percentage of male suicides are alcohol-related, and four out of 10 men who attempt suicide are chronic problem drinkers.
Men are not more prone to mental health problems than women, but it seems that their problems with depression, and alcohol or substance abuse, are more likely to lead to suicide. What is it about men that makes such a tragic outcome more likely?
Clare Wyllie of the Samaritans UK agrees that the most recent research "points to important gender differences in suicide."
The Samaritans, she says, "is currently researching how social expectations of men contribute to the considerably higher rate of suicide in men."
Societal pressures on men
What might those 'social expectations' be? Experts suggest that men feel pressure to appear strong in the face of adversity, and eschew weakness or vulnerability. The Hollywood vision of manhood is that of the strong, silent hero. Men don't moan or complain, and they certainly don't go to the doctor when they're feeling a bit down in the mouth.
That's backed up by statistics, which show that three-quarters of men who commit suicide have no contact with mental health specialists in the 12 months prior to their deaths.
And many men won't even talk about their problems to their friends. Men facing relationship problems, unemployment or family breakdown hit the bottle and slide slowly into depression without opening up to anyone.
As Dr Blumenthal states: "Women are more likely than men to have stronger social supports, to feel that their relationships are deterrents to committing suicide, and to seek psychiatric and medical intervention these protective factors may contribute to their lower rate of completed suicide."
'Social expectations' also have men down as the main breadwinners, even in a jobs market where both partners are likely to work. That means unemployment may be easier to take for women, who can bolster their sense of self-worth by becoming housewives or homemakers.
On the other hand, men feel humiliated when they can't provide for their families, feeling they have nothing left to give. And instead of talking about it, they keep that sense of humiliation to themselves, with tragic consequences.
What can be done?
So men may suffer silently during tough times, which makes it more likely they will reach a point of despair without seeking help. But if men won't talk about it, what can be done?
On a personal level, anyone with suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of hopelessness and despair, needs to get help. If you don't want to talk to your partner or GP, make the Samaritans your first port of call. Talking in confidence to a sympathetic stranger can help to put problems in perspective.
More generally, the stigma needs to be removed from mental health problems, and men have to be encouraged to talk about their feelings with each other and with mental health professionals.