On the Suicides of Famous People

Today the world learned of the death of Anthony Bourdain. This is an eerie addition to the topic of suicide this week -- Bourdain died by suicide just days after designer Kate Spade did as well, and just one day after the CDC report of a dramatic rise in suicides nationally. 

The loss of Bourdain really got to me this morning. I've been a fan for many years, and I've been so impressed by his work for and support of Asia Argento and the #MeToo movement as a whole this past year. His work has been particularly meaningful to me, so it feels like a big loss even without the implications of suicide. 

Seeing the news this morning, though, I'm also seeing the conversational trends that occur after a celebrity suicide. I wanted to just say a few words about a few things. 

The Myth of Having it All

Here's what I know: Those who say things like, "Why would he do this? He had it all?" and the like are definitely not people who have ever experienced suicidal ideation. I'm glad for them, of course, but this narrative and these questions are very harmful. 

Anyone who has had depression and (especially) suicidal thoughts knows that those thoughts cannot by tamed by gratitude, logic, or shame. In fact, hearing those sorts of conversations can actually make things much worse because you feel guilty for feeling the way you feel. 

The best way to talk about this sort of thing is to help end the stigma around mental health. Make it okay to talk about suicidal thoughts and mental illness, and support measures that support individuals. Do not shame. Do not judge. If you don't understand, reach out to those who might and try to understand. 

Lack of Access to Care

This one deserves a much larger discussion, but I want to point out the heartbreaking truth that emerges whenever there is a loss of someone famous to suicide. Those who start conversations inevitably find individuals who lack access to mental healthcare. This means that those folks are living with the cruelty of suicidal thoughts, the pain of depression and anxiety, and the isolation  of mental illness with no hope for professional help. This is not fucking okay. 

When there is a school shooting, a lot of people like to start taking about mental illness, and a lot of them like to shake their fists and say "We need better mental healthcare!" But no one does anything. And this topic gets swept under the rug. If you truly give a shit about the rise in suicides, the mass shootings, your loved ones, etc., start demanding change to mental healthcare in this country. 

I want to say so much more, but I'll leave it at that for now. 

Life-Long Struggles

Finally, I just want to get real personal for a minute. Some of you might wonder why celebrity suicides are such a big deal beyond the obvious sense of loss. I'll tell you why from my own experience. 

As someone who has spent the better part of her life dealing with mental health issues, and as someone who battled suicidal thoughts and deep depression, famous people's suicides really get to me -- especially someone like Bourdain, who was 61. This immediately reminds me that mental health is a life-long battle. It tells me that even if you get past the worst parts, there's always a possibility of the darkness descending in the future. That's a tough pill to swallow. 

Please, be gentle with your words, and check in on your loved ones on days like today. 

And, if you are struggling, please know you're not alone. There are people who want to talk and there are lots of people who want you to stay. 

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, at any time, about any type of crisis

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386