Watch CBSN Live

Rachel Brown, "Hell's Kitchen" Suicide: Was Reality TV to Blame?

Gordon Ramsay, host of "Kitchen Nightmares," during an appearance at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 2, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images photo) Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

(CBS) Suicide claims more than 34,000 Americans every year, and it looks as if two recent victims had one thing in common:

Both were former contestants on a reality show notorious for dishing out tough love to aspiring chefs.

Joseph Cerniglia, 39, of Pompton Lakes, N.J., apparently leaped to his death yesterday from the George Washington Bridge, the New York Post reported. The owner of a restaurant in suburban New York, Cerniglia had appeared in 2007 on "Kitchen Nightmares," a show that subjected struggling restaurateurs to harsh criticism from English foodie Gordon Ramsay.

In 2007, 41-year-old Rachel Brown reportedly shot herself to death after appearing on "Hell's Kitchen," another show that featured Ramsay.

Ramsay is famously tough on contestants.

"Your business is about to f - - king swim down the Hudson," Ramsay told Cerniglia, the married father of three, according to the Daily Mail.

Does that kind of talk drive people to kill themselves?

Probably not, says the former president of the American Academy of Suicidology, Dr. Robert Yufit.

"My guess is that both of these people had major problems before appearing on the show," Yufit told CBS News. "I would almost bet that the show itself should not be held responsible. I would say say that the show might have tripped off something else that was going on in their lives.

Yufit, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist, said he wasn't acquainted with the particulars of the deaths. But, he said, the ways Cerniglia and Brown apparently killed themselves suggest that both were determined to die.

"Shooting yourself and jumping off a bridge are extreme situations where death is almost a certainty," he said. That's not the case with pills and other, less violent forms of "self-harm, he said.


View CBS News In