Most people believe high-profile stars like Bourdain and Spade must be happy given their success, but the truth is that beneath the facade often lies a grim reality.
On Tuesday morning, fashion designer Kate Spade committed suicide. A few days later, on Friday afternoon in Strasbourg, France, chef Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.
What stands out both Spade’s and Bourdain’s death is the fact that they represented, for many, what seemed to be success and happiness. Spade had sold her eponymous handbag collection in 2007, had a husband and a teenage daughter, and had swept up every fashion award humanly possible, and then some.
Likewise, Bourdain was a giant in his field, working up the ranks in the kitchen to becoming a talented chef, a widely read author, and achieving the pinnacle of his success in televised food documentaries that flung him to perilous corners of the Earth, first through No Reservations and then through Parts Unknown.
Beneath that sheen of success and happiness, however, there was depression—deep, unsettling, tumultuous depression that rocked both Spade and Bourdain, ultimately leading them to commit suicide.
That’s a huge problem within the mental health community right now, which is reeling from the fact that not only did two well-liked, highly followed celebrities with strong fan following potentially spark a suicide contagion, but also a report out from the Centers for Disease Control that proves what we’ve suspected: Suicide rates are spiking in every state in America, with about half of states seeing levels skyrocketing 30 percent more than previously reported.
… Appio [Lauren Appio, a psychologist] said that the misconception that people who “have it all” can’t have depression or be dealing with mental health issues often works against patients as well, wondering why they are incapable of being happy if they have a dream family and relationship, a job others lust after, and all the perks of fame and success.
…That’s the wrong way to think about it. While many equate suicide with those who have struggled with mental illness for years or dealt with substance abuse and have had an established history of trying to deal with their inner demons. But Appio said that those most at risk of suicide ideation are often the very people who don’t have such a history.
…But a potential obstacle might be those who are close to the patient and might not understand why success and “having it all” doesn’t mean happiness. “People might unintentionally invalidate them by asking, ‘What’s wrong? Why don’t you snap out of it?'”
And that invalidation can be extremely dangerous in putting a person towards the path of suicide.
… The important thing to understand, according to experts, is that those who might seem happy, who might seem fortunate, who might not seem to have a reason to be anything but lucky are not immune to mental health struggles.
… If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
How People Learn to Become Resilient by Maria Konnikova