The Known and the Unknowable of Suicide
It's been a heartbreaking week - to lose such luminaries as Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to suicide in such a short span of time is unfathomable. It has taken me a bit to gather my thoughts and look after the folks in my world who have been deeply triggered by these tragedies. But I often sit back and wait and see how the media and culture respond - which also lets me process my own grief - I was a huge fan of Tony's.
And the best conclusion I can come to is that we must do better with access to quality mental health support in this country. And really stop stigmatizing those who are struggling.
The scars of mental illness run deep - some are chemical, biological and physical. They can be complicated by family issues, abuse and neglect, substance abuse and so much more. It hides in the shadows of the night and in the recesses of your spirit, waiting to pull you down into the abyss. Devastating - Overwhelming - Terrifying.
Now - add on top of that: stigma and judgement coming at you from all sides - "just get help" - "just get happy" - "just take a pill" - "what's wrong with you???" Therapy that doesn't help - drugs that mask the problem and assault your brain - all of which reinforce the helplessness that feels like a monster that will swallow you whole. Even more frustrating are the number of people I talk to on a regular basis who have no access to quality mental health care. Programs are being cut - insurance payments are being reduced to therapists - or folks who are homebound, disabled due to their mental illness or who have no idea where to start looking are truly lost. Also in poor or rural communities where there is no access even to good food or clean water, there is certainly no thought for their mental health care..... And that last fact comes at me again and again in my work. People think that just because someone is in therapy, or are on medications, that they are getting the help they need. But are they actually getting better? Shifting their lives? Finding a good balance between meds, therapy, coaching and health. This is especially true for kids who have these struggles or who have been touched by suicide - judgements and talking down to them or telling them to "just cheer up" not only doesn't help - they make things immeasurably worse. Kids do not have the life experience or skills to figure any of this out on their own. They don't just grow out of it..... they will turn on themselves or on others.
If you have ever been desperate, I can tell you it is mind-numbing. Knowing what to do or where to turn feels impossible. Who do I call? How do I really change my life? Do I even want to? Yes, call the hotline. Yes, reach out to your loved ones. Listen, listen, listen.
But advocate for more clinics, more training and more resources.
Don't throw around easy answers or platitudes.
And don't make assumptions about anyone's story or state of mind. Just because someone is famous or rich doesn't bring them joy or contentment or love.
Humans are complicated.
Therefore our issues are complicated.
That complexity must be honored and looked after in better ways.
My heart goes out to Kate's daughter and Tony's daughter, 13 and 11, respectfully. This loss will shape their lives forever. I only hope they find their way. My heart goes out to my friends who are struggling on many levels to get the care they need or to get care for their kids. If anyone reading this needs a neutral and compassionate ear, do reach out. You are not alone and you matter.
The hardest part is, we cannot save everyone.
But we can and MUST do better.
Peace and Light.