Depression and Celebrity Suicide

Celebrity suicide can take a toll on those who are depressed and that happened to me this week with the suicide of Kate Spade and the suspected suicide of Anthony Bourdain, reported just this morning. I can say I was upset by Kate Spade’s suicide (particularly the details, which I won’t discuss here) earlier in the week and then this morning when I learned of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide (not an official ruling at this time), it felt like adding insult to injury. The celebrity suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have actually worsened my depression.

WHY DO THE CELEBRITY SUICIDES OF KATE SPADE AND ANTHONY BOURDAIN MATTER?

Now, truth be told, I don’t much care about celebrities. Their lives are very far removed from mine and for me, they can do whatever they want and it’s almost never relevant to me. So the latest “scandal” is something that others can flip over, I don’t need to.

But celebrity suicide is different. Suicide touches me, of course, and while all suicides touch a huge number of people, when a celebrity dies of suicide, it touches thousands, maybe even millions (Dealing with Depression in the Wake of Robin Williams’ Suicide). And it’s this pervasive and widespread effect that gets me, I think. In fact, sometimes I even feel mad at the celebrity as in, “How could you kill yourself – don’t you know how many people you will hurt?”

(Please understand, anger may not be the most logical of emotions following a person’s death but it is completely normal after a death, especially one of suicide. There are five stages to grief and one can experience any of them [anger being one] at any time.)

And I understand, of course, as someone who has been there, when you’re planning your suicide and taking steps to end your life, you’re not thinking of the others you will hurt, you are just thinking of your own unbearable pain. That pain outweighs everything else. And if you have ever felt it, you understand why. It’s like the pain is stealing all your air. And when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. It’s also important to note that pain can even make you think everyone else will be better off without you. A very powerful, if very false, feeling.

In the case of Kate Spade’s suicide, I thought of the thousands of people who have her designs (she famously built a handbag brand). I thought it so sad that these cheery designs that must have brought smiles to many were actually tear-stained by Spade.

And I thought of Anthony Bourdain, whose travels and experiences made it appear that he had an amazing life, and how he must have had to hide his pain every day if it was so severe that it drove him to suicide. I know what it is to hide that kind of pain. It’s horrific.

DEPRESSION AND CELEBRITY SUICIDE

And these thoughts of celebrity suicide, particularly one piled on top of another so quickly, has made me feel even more depressed. Somehow, life feels more hopeless, pointless. I suppose this is how suicide can spread – the thought is, if these people, with every resource and everything going for them, can be taken by suicide, then what chance do I have to fight it? How can I possibly win against suicide when Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade could not?

I do find it odd that a person that I have never met or even felt strongly about can make me feel this way or think this way, but such is the power of celebrity suicide and such is the power of depression.

PUTTING ANTHONY BOURDAIN AND KATE SPADE’S CELEBRITY SUICIDES IN CONTEXT

While celebrity suicides pretty much poke us in the eye with the cold, hard facts about suicide, it’s worth remembering something that never makes it into the news: people fight and win against suicide every day. There is no news to report when someone simply doesn’t die. But countless don’t. Countless aren’t taken by suicide every day. And I’m one of them.

While the news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s death has made me feel a sense of hopelessness, this hopelessness needs to be tempered with the knowledge that I am one of those non-newsworthy people who has not died. I have fought suicidal depression. I have fought suicide and won. In fact, I’m doing it right now.

My point is, if celebrity suicide causes you to feel any kind of grief or the worsening of depression, I understand completely. But try to fight against these tragedies by knowing that there are even more miracles of people surviving out there. Yes, suicide statistics are depressing and every news article about these suicides will quote them; but the statistics we don’t have, the ones on surviving and even thriving in the face of suicidal ideation or even suicide attempt, those are worth remembering, too.

I grieve the loss of Spade and Bourdain to suicide. They brought happiness to many and, unfairly, didn’t feel that themselves. But I am also lifted knowing that this is a teaching moment that can encourage people to seek help and remind me of all the wins, including my own personal wins.

If you feel like you may hurt yourself, please reach out. You touch more people than you know and even if suicide is telling you that you don’t matter or the people don’t care about you, know that suicide lies and it is wrong.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Also, see the list of suicide helplines and resources on the HealthyPlace website.

Celebrity suicides can feel like dark moments, but there is light too, I promise.