Anthony Bourdain. Kate Spade. Another senseless life taken, another tear shed for a beloved celebrity or close friend or dear family member. We swiftly turn around and post links to suicide hotlines and numbers to call for help, thinking we’re doing our part in preventing the next tragedy. And yes, it’s one form of prevention, maybe even a solution. But it’s a simple solution to a complex issue.
This complex issue being…
What if people like Anthony and Kate didn’t even have one person to turn to? Or worse, what if they lived in a society in which it is looked down upon to seek therapy? In which therapy, if sought after, is costly, time-consuming, and inaccessible (which leads me to a startling statistic — in which 56 percent of Americans with a mental illness received no treatment in 2018 — source). In which finding the right drug is easier than finding the right brand of shampoo, and in most cases, cheaper! In which human lives are ostensibly measured by our monetary gain, our social hierarchies, our possessions, our appearances — when in reality we are fighting a losing internal battle. In which our mental ongoings are quickly dismissed, in fact, shoved aside as so utterly unimportant. Mental health? More like mental discarding. We survivors sit here in the aftermath of the last tragic loss of life and look for a quick solution. The one that won’t dig too deep to allow us to discover how confused and disillusioned we have become. We don’t want to take the time to really understand the inner workings, flaws, and pressures of modern life.
Sure, life expectancies in recent years have increased significantly. Quality of life has seemingly gotten better. People are living into their 80’s, 90’s, and beyond. So, things must be improving. Does anyone care to mention, all the while, that suicide rates have also increased drastically? On average, 129 people commit suicide every day in the U.S. (source). Perhaps we need to re-define what qualifies as a good quality of life if everyone is trying to off themselves.
Until we start asking the tough questions and having the necessary conversations, suicides will continue at the same or worse rates, and we’ll still sit there scratching our heads wondering why they didn’t ‘just reach out to someone or call that hotline.’ Because we know it’s not that simple.
Note: *I wrote this the week after Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade committed suicide (early June of last year) but just decided to post it now. There’s no current or obvious relevance other than the fact that suicide is always relevant. I would love to see more people talking about ways in which we can improve our knowledge of mental health and access to better and more (free!) resources for every citizen.