Celebrity deaths bring mental health issues to forefront
Two high-profile celebrity suicides always get our attention when it comes to depression. But hundreds of thousands of people deal with depression daily with no public platform.
This is a problem that is not confined to one slice of society. It affects male and female, the wealthy, the famous, the poor, the middle class, and our veterans who bring back post-traumatic stress disorder. But suicide is, as they say, a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Anxiety and depression strike at least one in five Americans. People like celebrities Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, who seemingly “have everything,” still suffer from mental illness. And let’s face it, there is still a stigma attached to it in our society which values strength and faith, but seems to discount personal struggles.
The Dallas Morning News wrote in an editorial: “Patients suffering from mental illness often struggle to validate their illness to friends, family and even doctors. People with anxiety are told to ‘calm down’ and people suffering from depression are scolded for failing to see ‘the bright side of life,’ even as misfiring chemicals tell their brain that life may not be worth living.
No one would ever tell patients with diabetes to suck it up and be thankful for that piece of cake, so why do we assume people with mental health issues can somehow control their brain’s chemistry?”
It is important we show support for one another and especially those who choose to seek help.
Suicide rates are rising nationally. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that took place from 1999 to 2016, showed rates rose as much as 30 percent in some states. And suicides numbered twice that of homicides in our country: Nearly 45,000 Americans ages 10 or older died by their own hand in 2016. That marks a 24-percent increase since 1999.
Increases varied widely by state, from 6 percent in Delaware to 57 percent in North Dakota. Only Nevada had a declining rate, but rates there have historically been higher than average.
Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in this country. A past president of the American Psychological Association asked at what point does it become “a public health crisis”? She noted the rates are actually higher than what is reported, but homicides still get more attention.
But suicides have risen sharply since the Great Recession that hit 10 years ago. In 2017, the journal Social Science and Medicine showed how a rise in home foreclosure rates was associated with a marginal increase in suicide rates. Stagnant wages and rising costs of everything from groceries to insurance has no doubt helped fuel economic anxiety.
Suicide has risen across all genders and races, but the increase was higher for white males than any other group. A feeling of “not being able to provide,” coupled with other factors like opioid abuse and high suicide rates among veterans returning from war, have caused spikes in this subgroup. The increase among women is also troublesome.
More than half of people who committed suicide in the study did not have any known mental health conditions, researchers said. Many times, the loss of a relationship, financial setbacks, eviction or substance abuse were the main drivers.
No matter what statistics are cited, there is help available for anyone and everyone. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day. Establishing social connectedness beyond social media also is important to people’s mental health.
As a friend shared this week, suicide does not end the chances of life getting worse. Suicide eliminates the chance of it ever getting better.
Please make a call to professionals and/or loved ones. And we all can reach out to make someone’s life a little better. – K.E.C.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255.
Confidential online chat is also available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.