June 12, 2018

Suicide: An Epidemic We Need to Talk About

​The world recently mourned the loss of Icons Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, none more so than their young daughters. While there will be another handbag designer, and another professional chef will become a television personality, these two young girls will never be able to fill the void left by their parents. Frances Beatrix Spade, 13, won’t have her mother there to help her navigate her first relationship, graduate high school, or help her pick out her wedding dress. Her mother won’t be there to witness the birth of her first child, or to hold her hand while navigating life’s many challenges. Ariane Bourdain, 11, was her father’s reason for living. His was once quoted as saying, “My sole duty as a parent and as a father, particularly raising a little girl who is going to grow up to be a young woman, is that she will never look to men for affirmation, or anyone else for affirmation or self-worth or be physically intimidated by anyone.” She will grow up without her father’s advice, his guidance, his cooking. He won’t be there to see her graduate from college, walk her down the aisle when she gets married, or to hold her when her heart is broken. These two young ladies became women this week. While the rest of the world mourns an icon, they are mourning the loss of a parent, and of their childhood.

Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were larger than life personalities. ​Spade brought color into the world with her accessories brands. ​Bourdain brought international flavor and a desire to travel the world into our homes and hearts. While there are reports now saying that they’ve battled depression at various points in their lives, none of that was public knowledge for the majority of us who have admired them for so long. Even among inner circles, ​ few ​knew their struggles. ​If it wasn't obvious before, now it is more than ever: Depression knows no bounds. Depression does not discriminate. Depression doesn’t see money. Depression doesn’t see color. Depression doesn’t see status. Depression doesn’t care who a person is, or what they’ve done. Depression is an equal opportunity mental illness. According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and only one of three that is rising. Depression affects men, women, children, adults, and the elderly alike. It can be a result of trauma, but not always. The reality is, over half of those that commit suicide do not have a mental health diagnosis at the time of their death. People are suffering in silence. However, most who attempt to take their life will exhibit one or more warning signs.

​According to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, ​these are 5 warning signs someone who is suicidal may have:​

  1. Talks about feeling hopeless, or that things would be better without them here.
  2. ​An increased use of drugs and/or alcohol.
  3. ​A sudden shift in mood/temperament. i.e.: dark and depressed to sunny and happy.
  4. Giving away meaningful possessions.
  5. Sleeping too little, or too much.

At 27 years old, I left work in the middle of the day, left my children at daycare, and drove straight to my doctor’s office. The receptionist told me that they couldn’t see me that day, but something in my voice caused her to reconsider. She told me to wait and that someone would see me right away. At that point in my life, ​it looked like all my dreams had come true, that I was living a fairy tale. But the truth was that I was horribly broken inside, even though I didn’t have any reason to be. ​This made me feel even worse. I didn’t want to hurt myself, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. ​And that made me feel worse. I knew that there was no one in the world that could love my children more than I did, but that inner voice told me that there was someone who could love them better. There’s the lie that depression tells, that there is something so intrinsically broken about you and that the world would be better off without you.

According to Helpguide.org,  “Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can't see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just can't see one.” As someone that has struggled with depression, I can relate to the pain that people who commit suicide feel. The difference lies in the ability to hope for better days. Those who commit suicide have lost the ability to hope.

Anthony Bourdain was once quoted to People Magazine as saying, “There have been times, honestly, in my life that I figured, ‘I’ve had a good run — why not just do this stupid thing, this selfish thing … jump off a cliff into water of indeterminate depth.’ [Before my daughter I would] “go to places where I was, frankly, asking for trouble. It was a daredevil move. In retrospect, I don’t know that I would do that today — now that I’m a dad or reasonably happy.” His perspective is one that is true for many people that struggle with their mental health. There may be some that find depression to be momentary in their lives, while others will fight a lifelong battle with it. They feel the burden to be strong, to hide their doubt, their uncertainty, their inner demons. They don’t want people to see them as weak. They are afraid of what would happen if their image was shattered.

It’s important to realize that if you know someone that has battled with mental health issues in the past, it might not be over. However, there is hope. The Harvard website notes that though a previous suicide attempt is the one of the largest risk factors for suicide, studies have shown that 9 out of 10 people that survive a suicide attempt will not go on to die by suicide at a later date. This indicates that the suicide crisis is only momentary, and if given the chance, survivors will go on to live fulfilling and happy lives.

In the next few weeks, it will be more important than ​before to talk to those you care about, especially if you believe they may be at risk for suicide. Researchers believe that when high profile, beloved individuals commit suicide, there may be an increase among the general population. ABC reports in their interview with West Care Medical Director Dr. Herbert Cruz "[After] Robin William's death in 2014 we saw a 10 percent increase over the subsequent month and in total for the remainder of the year…” Dr. Cruz believes that when celebrities commit suicide, it demystifies it for the general population.  

With this in mind, lets talk to those we care about and ask them how they are handling the challenges of life. If you yourself are having thoughts of suicide, reach out. Ask for help. Reach out to friends, family, but also don't hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Don’t suffer in silence. You matter.

​About the Author

​​Katie is a​ stay-at-home mom of three young children and a renaissance woman at heart. Always learning something new, from Arabic linguistics to early childhood education, Katie ​loves exploring the world around her and taking everyone she knows on incredible adventures. Sweet and smart, she is a talented writer, veteran, and military wife.

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