“Money does not create happiness.”
On June 5, fashion designer Kate Brosnahan Spade was found dead in her apartment by her housekeeper. The 55-year-old died by suicide.
Three days later, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain took his own life in France while working on his CNN television series. He was 61.
I remember hearing of the death of actor Robin Williams in 2014. I loved his movies, especially “Patch Adams” and “Dead Poets Society.” I think any character he played, he performed well and with passion.
As seen with these recent celebrity deaths and so many others in the past, neither money nor fame can buy happiness.
Suicidal thoughts and the act of suicide can happen to anyone — they could be our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers and our children.
In an NPR article titled “CDC: U.S. Suicide Rates Have Climbed Dramatically” June 7, All Things Considered hosts discussed how suicide is increasing and talked with Deborah Stone, a behavioral scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the lead author of a study that looked at suicides from 1999 to 2016.
“Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state over the past two decades, and half of the states have seen suicide rates go up more than 30 percent,” the article said. “Suicide is a major public health issue, accounting for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016 alone.”
It’s also not just a mental health issue. Stone said there are many experiences and traumas that lead to suicide, as she explained to the hosts.
“Fifty-four percent of the people who killed themselves didn’t have a previously known mental health issue,” the article said.
Stone added, “Instead, these folks were suffering from other issues, such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, job or financial problems and recent crises or things that were coming up in their lives that they were anticipating.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”
— Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”
Ebenezer Scrooge’s idealism in the beginning of the novel is not realistic for our compassionate society. I often hear of encouraging those suffering from a mental health issue, such as depression, to seek help. Although this is applicable, can we, as family, friends and neighbors, provide some of the help ourselves? You could have a conversation with him or her on the phone if you know he or she is having a bad day; you could cook a meal; you could make a stop to visit on your way doing errands; you could make sure he or she is taking needed medications; you could ask if he or she would like to speak with a spiritual adviser; you could drive him or her to a doctor appointment. Be the inspiration and saving grace the individual may need.
But, sadly, sometimes all those things don’t work, or there were no signs present of the individual having suicidal tendencies — and we find ourselves asking what more could we have done, or should we have seen something?
“The person who completes suicide dies once. Those left behind die a thousand deaths, trying to relive those terrible moments and understand ... Why?”
— S. Clark’s “Bereavement after suicide — how far have we come and where do we go from here?”
I can only imagine how a mother feels after she loses her son to suicide, what a husband goes through when his wife dies of suicide or how a 15-year-old feels when she finds out her best friend committed suicide. Before she killed herself, Spade left her 13-year-old daughter a note. Do you think this made everything all right? Do you think her daughter won’t have any blame? I don’t believe so.
I once heard someone say people who die by suicide are selfish. In part, that is true. But a person contemplating suicide probably feels his or her pain is greater than the pain that will be felt by those left behind. Still, suicide is not the answer to seek.
In a photo project for Refinery29 in September 2015, Dese’Rae L. Stage said, “Someone, somewhere, will find this project, and they’ll see a story that parallels their own, and they’ll find strength in that. Maybe they’ll share their own story with someone else, or they’ll be less afraid to reach out to a friend they’re worried about. Maybe they won’t be so scared to just talk about it.
“I’ve collected the stories and portraits of attempt survivors across the country — people just like you and me — and I’m finding that the louder I yell and the more people I convince to yell with me, the more we inch toward breaking down those walls of stigma and shame, and the easier it becomes to just live through this.”
“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”
— Christian D. Larson
Is blood flowing throughout your veins? Is your heart beating? Do you have breath in your lungs? Then your life has purpose — and your life is worth living.
Darkness does not last forever. The light switch is there; we just have to make sure we keep trying to turn it on.
In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up.”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website is suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The phone number is 1-800-273-8255.