Source: CCO Creative Commons
Yesterday, so many people around the world were shocked to hear that fashion icon Kate Spade had committed suicide. Her death serves as a reminder that mental illness crosses all economic, demographic, and social boundaries—it does not discriminate.
Kate’s sister confirmed that Spade had serious mental-illness issues, but avoided getting treatment (despite her sister’s urging that she do so) because she was afraid of hurting her brand. To make matters worse, Spade was also self-medicating with alcohol.
No doubt, those who decide to take their lives have probably been suffering for an extended period of time. Often the emotional pain is so overwhelming that they view suicide as their only viable alternative.
For many people, the stigma tied to having mental-health issues prevents them from seeking help. Shame might have been a part of Spade’s dilemma, as this emotion can lead to depression, the most common precursor to taking one’s life.
With Spade’s passing, some surprising statistics were made public. According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Also, the suicide rate among middle-aged women (45 to 65) rose 63 percent from 1999 to 2014. Some of the reasons have to do with women’s changing roles in the workplace and the challenge of juggling career and family—it’s a lot to manage. Women feel as if they’re being pulled in too many directions, and perfectionism is something that is difficult to maintain but also hard to let go of. While many womemn feel as if they should be able to do it all, there are times when it’s just not possible; and they may take out their frustrations by overindulging in drugs, food, and/or alcohol.
An article in The Guardian last year claimed that the main reasons for the increase in suicide among women are job loss, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. While suicide by overdosing was common some years ago, it’s no longer the case. There’s always a risk with an overdose that the person will survive . . . and then what? It’s been said that those who choose overdosing might be sending out a call for help, while others, like Spade, choose suicide by suffocation and strangling, realizing that there’s little chance they will fail.
But the people who suffer the most are those who are left behind, who will have to deal with guilt and loss for the rest of their lives as they ask themselves what they could have done to prevent the suicide, and whether there were any signs they missed.
If you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one due to suicide, here are some things to think about and consider:
- Losing a loved one can trigger other intense emotions.
- You need to be prepared for shock and disbelief.
- Feelings of guilt are normal, as is thinking about the “What ifs,” but remember that the suicide is not your fault.
- It’s normal to withdraw from daily activities.
- Give yourself time to heal. Everyone grieves in their own way.
- Expect setbacks.
- Reach out to supportive friends and family.
- Suspend gatherings/memories that are too painful.
- Consider journaling about your feelings on a daily basis.
- Join a support group.
- Seek professional help, as needed.
We can never completely understand the extent of another person’s emotional pain. However, if you or someone you know is suffering, please immediately seek support and assistance. Here are two resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat online
For substance-abuse problems, please contact:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)