The high-profile tragedies of Spade and Bourdain profoundly affected many of us, as evidenced by how we pay our condolences, open up about our own lives, and renew the mental health discussion on Facebook and elsewhere. That’s understandable, as these people were stars and icons.
But you didn’t really know them, and any relationship you had with their public persona was one-sided.
So, I wanted to remind people that in real life, mental health and suicide often don’t "look" as sexy and successful as Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain.
Instead, people who end up committing suicide may be awkward and unpopular; the overweight child eating lunch by him or herself; the employee that no one talks to because they’re a little weird; the housewife who is the subject of gossip. Instead of running billion-dollar fashion empires or exploring the world through our television sets, people who attempt to end their own lives probably are a lot more like the rest of us.
Furthermore, pain, isolation, and illness often make people act differently, look not so great, and even land on the streets, jobless, or addicted.
Would you reach out to Spade and Bourdain if that was their situation, instead of being rich and famous stars? Or, would you walk right by them on the street if they asked you for some spare change or begged a kind word?
One of the hardest things in the world is to give compassion to someone who doesn’t look or act like they deserve it. But we have the opportunity to do just that every day, and it may help someone stay with us.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 123 people on average commit suicide every day in the U.S., and countless hundreds or thousands more around the world. In fact, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with nearly 50,000 each year.
Remember also that for every suicide that ends in death, there are 25 attempts. A 2016 survey by the National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health found that every year, 0.5 percent of U.S. adults make at least one suicide attempt, which adds up to about 1.3 million people.
So, I urge you not just to mourn Spade and Bourdain, but to remember the 369 others who commit suicide every 36 hours on average in the U.S., and to reach out to those who are struggling right now who you do know and who are in your life.
- Norm :-)