The Grief of Suicide
Once again, we are confronted with suicide in the headlines as two respected and admired celebrities chose to end their lives: fashion designer Kate Spade, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. The news hit hard, as many people paused and acknowledged the impact of their deaths; many people acknowledged, “I'm not okay right now.”
For example, Jason is deeply distressed by the impact Bourdain's suicide has had on his partner, Anne. She has never suffered from depression, but upon hearing the news, she went into a deep depression. Jason also felt an impact himself. As someone who has suffered from depression all his life, and is currently living a life free from crippling depression, he now asks, “How do I know that I will make it?”
Mental health experts agree that high-profile celebrity suicides can contribute to an increased risk of suicidal contagion. John Ackerman of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital states, “When you've got high-profile people who are successful and who the world views as having a lot going for them and they die by suicide, it can generate feelings of hopelessness.”
Choosing to live Can Be hard
I know this feeling firsthand. As a young woman, I struggled with depression. I know about the deep desire to find a way to stop the pain. My first counselor asked me what my dreams were. My only reply was that I had none. It seemed impossible to think that I could have a life where I would wake up and not regret having to live one more day. It was agony facing each day with no hope and no belief in the future.
I had everything to live for and did not know it. The decision to live was a hard one. Today, I am thankful almost everyday that I made the decision to live, but not everyday. I still have the rare day where my first thought when I awake is, “Oh no, another day.” Sometimes, those thoughts are random intrusions with seemingly no meaning or connection to my current life. Sometimes, they arise because I am facing one of life’s hard times. Regardless of the reason, I now know how to find my way back to my “real” life, and I take those steps quickly.
Suicide Is Not an Acceptable Outcome of Depression.
Suicide can be prevented. There needs to be evaluations and treatment. Suicide rarely occurs out of the blue. There are factors that contribute to a person's decision that suicide is the only option to deal with the very difficult and painful situations in one’s life. Those factors create the feelings of hopelessness, depression and despair that leads one to believe that life will never get better.
It can happen to anyone, and can be even harder to overcome when paired with a background that didn't give you the tools to do so. A family history of childhood neglect, abuse and maltreatment or a family with a history of alcoholism, addictions, and/or mental health disorders, neglects to teach that there is a way out of difficulties, tragedies and crisis that can lead to life rather than death.
We need to work together and work diligently to prevent suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention published this statement after the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain:
“With recent high profile deaths by suicide, this is a time to stand together and
resolve to do more. Suicide affects all of us – we all face challenges and have mental health to manage.”
Currently less than half of people with a diagnosable mental health condition in the U.S. receive mental health treatment.
Shame and Suicide
In many of the cases of suicide of which I know, the person felt so much shame that it prevented them from seeking help. They believed that they should be strong enough to fight and over come their feelings. They believed they were too weak to be helped. They needed to know that getting help with feelings is as important as any medical help we need. The thing which saved my life was the help of a therapist.
Let me echo the words of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: “Let’s band together in our community efforts to encourage open dialogue about any challenges people are facing, better understanding of the warning signs of suicide, leading those who are struggling to help, and protecting one another by removing lethal means from those at risk, especially safe storage of medications and firearms. These clear steps can lower the national suicide rate. With all of us working together and by collectively making a massive investment in suicide prevention research, resources and quality mental health care we can and we will reverse the rising suicide rate.”
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness or any
other difficulties there is a way to find hope. It starts by reaching out for help before suicide has become an option. Talk to a therapist, or if you need immediate help, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. You can talk to someone on the phone at:
1-800-273-8255, or by live chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/