Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade and Celebrity Suicides
Kate Spade was a famous fashion designer, and Anthony Bourdain was a famous chef.
…But unlike people with heart disease and cancer, those living with the mental health struggles that lead to suicide often don’t seek treatment or open up to friends and family about their deep despair.
Those who may try to hide their suffering can include famous, successful and outwardly happy, got-it-all-together celebrities like Spade and Bourdain.
The reason that such people and others from all segments of U.S. society feel the need to hide their suffering is because of the heavy stigma that surrounds mental illness, says Stephen Hinshaw, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco.
…People who suffer from depression or bouts of mania, or who hear voices, worry that others will see them as weak, lacking in self-control or having a bad character if it’s known they’ve been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
…. But Bourdain’s death, as well as Spade’s, have focused a very bright spotlight on the tragedy of suicide. Hinshaw hopes America can take something from the struggles of these celebrities and learn about the harm that comes from people feeling they have to hide their suffering.
He said it could be helpful if other “famous” people came forward about having a mental illness and how they cope. “It helps many people identify and relate,” he
But in the end, Hinshaw said it would be better if “everyday” people could come out more and share their stories.
…These days, there’s still a high degree of shame surrounding mental illness, Hinshaw pointed out. For one thing, people who disclose a diagnosis during a job interview are routinely denied employment or discriminated against in other ways. That discrimination also persists in other ways in society.
By BELINDA LUSCOMBE, June 2018
…Bourdain’s suicide, which followed shortly after that of fashion designer Kate Spade’s, was a one-two punch to our belief that there are some people who are living the perfect life.
That each of them chose to end an existence that, to outsiders, seemed so idyllic and enviable is a mystery to people — especially since these were not teenagers or lost 20-somethings, but two people who might reasonably be expected to have reached some sort of self-knowledge. So many spectators of Bourdain’s and Spade’s lives saw in them reflections of the lives they would have liked to have lived.
… Apart from yearning again for more help for those who struggle with depression and mental illness (though we do not know the exact reason for Bourdain’s death), what can we do with the information that those whose lives we admire cannot bear to be alive? How can we process the fact that all that they had and all that they’d done were not bulwark enough against the darkness? What hope is there for the rest of us?
…. When we look at lives like Spade’s and Bourdain’s, it can make our own feel wanting. We haven’t started our own companies, or turned our work experience into a book. They’re happier and more fulfilled, because we are not as hardworking or talented as they are. Their lives look better than ours, therefore they must be better people than we are.
Our desire to turn Bourdain and Spade’s success into a judgment on our own stems from a flawed comparison due to incomplete data. Many lives are not as they appear.
Happiness is not the end result of a sum of accomplishments.
The person whose wealth/wardrobe/job/talent you wish you had has his or her own struggles, and they could at least equal our own.
Bourdain seemed to hint at his, when during an episode shot in Sardinia, he asked in a voiceover, “What do you do after your dreams come true?“
…And please, if you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
…Mental health experts say this is a damaging narrative that contributes to many of the misconceptions and stigma surrounding mental illness that can keep those suffering from getting the help they need.
“You wouldn’t say ‘Oh my gosh, she had it all, how did she get cancer?’” said Patrick Smith, national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association. “The reality is that depression and most mental illnesses do not discriminate by postal code. They don’t discriminate by income bracket.”
by Jessica Schladebeck
When death becomes a spectacle, everyone suffers.
With the tragic passing of Kate Spade earlier this week and the death of Anthony Bourdain Friday morning, the topic of suicide has become a fixture in news headlines and social media posts. While mental illness is not a transmittable disease, there are many studies suggesting suicide can, in a way, be contagious.
According to several studies, publicity surrounding a suicide has been repeatedly linked to a subsequent increase in the act, particularly among young people.
After Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962, the cause listed as probable suicide, the nation mourned — publicly. In the month that followed there was sweeping news coverage, public memorials and a 12% increase in suicides. That month saw an additional 303 suicides in comparison to the year prior, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
When Robin Williams died in 2014, the world reacted similarly. The comedian’s image was everywhere, details of his untimely passing spawned countless news articles and think pieces. His death is also similarly associated with a 10% increase in suicide across the United States in the five months after his passing, according to a study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, in February.
The phenomenon is often referred to as “suicide contagion,” defined by the Department of Health and Human Services as an increase in suicides due to “the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide.”
….Most mental health experts have since come to agree that exposure to high-profile suicide coverage — especially coverage with gratuitous detail — can trigger those struggling with suicidal thoughts. Responsible reporting is key to preventing suicide copycats, according to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the dawn of social media has brought with it countless additional avenues of exposure.
In the last two decades, ending in 2016, suicide rates in the United States have increased 25%, according to data published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control.
“These findings are disturbing. Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. right now, and it’s one of three causes that is actually increasing recently, so we do consider it a public health problem — and something that is all around us,” CDC Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told CNN.
“Our data show that the problem is getting worse.”
In addition to mental health conditions and suicide attempts as risk factors, other contributing circumstances include social and economic problems, poor coping and problem solving skills and the access to the means to commit suicide, according to the CDC.
And while mental health is often seen as the cause of suicide, it is far from the lone factor. More than half of those who died by suicide had not been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
… If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal tendencies, call 1-800-273-8255.
The deaths this week of the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, a New Jersey native, and the designer Kate Spade added two famous names to what some mental experts describe as America’s growing suicide epidemic.
The news also caused concern among people who work in suicide prevention that two such high-profile deaths in a single week might influence others with mental health issues to attempt taking their own lives.
…“Suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S.,” said Julie Cerel, a social work professor at the University of Kentucky and the president of the American Association of Suicidology, “and we don’t know why.”
More mysteries surround the connections, or lack thereof, between the deaths of celebrities and those of people who are not famous. Many experts said they feared the deaths of Spade and Bourdain might lead to copycats.
“Patients have told me when there have been other celebrity suicides that if this person who was so wealthy and happy killed themselves then why should I — whose life is so much more wretched — not do it?” said Maria Oquenda, who leads the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania and the scientific board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “But mental illness just doesn’t discriminate. If people are suffering, they need treatment.”
….when someone already thinking about suicide or dealing with any variety of mental health struggle learns that a celebrity at the top of his or her game has committed suicide, it can be dangerously triggering.
… Both Cerel and Reidenberg point out that following the 2014 suicide of Robin Williams — news that Spade’s sister said this week had captivated Spade at the time — there was a rise in suicides nationally; one study put the subsequent rise at 10 percent in the months that immediately followed.
“We saw a spike of same-method suicides … after some really graphic reporting,” says Cerel, who is also a psychologist and a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work. “That gives a little correlational evidence to how it affected people already contemplating suicide.”
Reidenberg sees the connection as even more absolute. “There are 100-plus studies around the world showing this correlation,” he says. “There was a 12 percent increase in suicide after Marilyn Monroe. … We know it increases risk for others.”
Another recent example of this was with the release of the highly controversial Netflix drama series 13 Reasons Why, which depicts the suicide of a high school student — and which,according to one study, prompted a swift 20 percent rise in Google queries about suicide.
“Searches for precise suicide methods increased after the series’ release,” wrote the study’s authors, while also noting that it was unclear whether an increase in searches equals an increase in actual suicide attempts (though there’s typically a correlation between the two). In conclusion, they wrote, their findings “suggest 13 Reasons Why, in its present form, has both increased suicide awareness while unintentionally increasing suicidal ideation.”
… Further triggering, she [psychologist and a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work] says, is the constant barrage of instant reporting on a suicide.
“Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have even heard about any of these deaths until the 6 o’clock news,” she says.
Guidelines for responsible reporting on suicides that could be less triggering, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, include
- avoiding sensationalistic headlines (“Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide”),
- leaving out photos of mourning relatives or tools of suicide,
- not printing the details of a suicide note, and
- avoiding words that describe the suicide in terms of a “successful” or “unsuccessful” attempt.
Instead, the guidelines suggest, use a school or work photo of the deceased, include helpful hotlines for others who may be at risk, stick to the basic facts (“Kurt Cobain dead at 27”), mention that a note was found without describing its contents, and describe the death by using terms such as “died by suicide” or “killed himself/herself.”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
How People Learn to Become Resilient by Maria Konnikova