I don’t own a piece of Kate Spade branded merchandise. Not because the myriad of products to choose from aren’t attractive, as they certainly are, but because I’ve never been able to rationalize spending larger sums of money on myself. I tend to wear things into the ground and shop for bargains, but I can absolutely understand how a beautiful handbag or accessory can make one feel fabulous, can make the day seem a little bit brighter. I do own a couple of Anthony Bourdain’s books and have watched countless episodes of his myriad shows. I fancy myself a pretty good cook and would live vicariously through his adventures, his words, his love of good food and his wit. Knowing that I may never get to travel the world, I appreciated his effort at trying to get us to see our shared humanity and broaden our horizons.
I will not pretend to have any enlightened understanding on the mental health issues that either Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain were dealing with. I’m not going to wax philosophically on suicide and any number of quaint pieces of bullshit theories that you’ve undoubtedly read over the last week and will read in the week to come. I will say that if you didn’t think that the way our country handles mental health issues sucked before, maybe you’ll open your eyes more to that fact now. Not because of their deaths, but because their deaths are making more people discuss their struggles and problems with getting and affording proper treatment.
I would like to say that suicide is not selfish, nor is it a laughing matter. If you have never had to talk someone you love out of taking their own life, you should consider yourself lucky. You should also take a moment to consider how approachable you are if one of your friends or family was struggling in that way. It’s all well and good to say that you’re there if someone needs to talk, but you have to do more than offer empty words. You have to ask specifically how your struggling friend is doing, ask questions about their well-being, like health, appetite, etc. And then you have to listen. Don’t talk. Don’t interject with platitudes. If you’ve ever told someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or that it’s always darkest before the dawn, or that you can pray mental health issues away, or that your family/job/good health should be enough to change your mind then that’s why no one has seriously turned to you for help. You are part of the problem. You are perpetuating the stigma.
I have discussed in the past that when I was eleven I went into the bathroom in my family’s home with the full intention of killing myself. I mixed a variety of things together, toothpaste and ear wax remover, odds and ends of things in the medicine cabinet. It probably would have resulted in a stomach ache at worst. But I was done. Done with my father’s anger, the way he abused my mother and belittled her daily, done with his drinking, the constant fear and worry. I was done with walking on eggshells, done with his racism, done with being told that I was just like my mother … stupid, ugly and nothing. For me, I had an epiphany. If I left, my mother and brother and sister would still be left with him; they would still suffer and I wouldn’t be able to be a buffer from the abuse. I dumped the mixture down the drain and went back to my “childhood.” I have always attributed this to divine intervention, but that’s my personal belief, so draw no judgements or directions from it.
Suicide is about being done, being exhausted from pretending and fighting and hoping for something to be different, anything to be different. It’s not an easily made choice, nor we will be able to understand if we aren’t directly involved. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that there are 123 suicides a day in the United States, although stigma leads to underreporting, so they estimate the number to be much higher. Their statistics can be found here, https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/.
Be an advocate for our society, and for those you love, for real change within our mental health care system. Don’t perpetuate the stigma. If you’re struggling, try to seek help or someone to talk to who won’t judge.
National Suicide Prevention hotline - 1.800.273.talk
Veteran’s Crisis Line - 1.800.273.8255 press 1
Crisis Text Line - Text HOME to 741741