When we hear the news that a high-profile personality has taken their life, it can shake us to the core. We often view celebrities as stronger, more powerful than us; living lives we could only dream about and invulnerable to the same stresses and struggles that we face. And, if they, with all their wealth, success and status can’t carry on, then what hope is there for us?
We presume that wealth and status is a protective factor that can shield us from depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness.
But people with privilege are not immune. Mental illness is a human condition and it does not discriminate. It’s easy to forget that those who live their lives in the public-eye, whether they are entertainers, media personalities or public leaders experience many of the same pressures as the rest of us, and face their own barriers to seeking help too. As performers they have learnt to mask their vulnerabilities and struggles and project a chosen image and persona to the world. And this is something we all do to some extent. Depression is often hidden behind a front of happiness.
We don’t know what another person is going through. Whether that’s a movie star or the barista who serves you your latte each morning or the colleague at the next desk… and that’s why we need to ask about suicide. Shame and stigma are powerful and although things are progressively changing, they are still huge barriers to seeking help and support.
Mental illness is not a personal failing or weakness. It’s an illness. It’s not something we choose or a punishment for our life choices.
But, what we do know, and what we must always try to remember, is there are ways to help those who are thinking about suicide find pathways to resilience and hope. We hear about the deaths by suicide but we don’t hear that for every one there are many other people who think about ending their life but don’t act on it and seek – and find – help. There is hope.
Resilience and education are key to improving mental health and reducing risk of suicide. CMHA can help you and those in your life build skills to overcome life’s challenges through programs such as Confident Parents:Thriving Kids, Bounce Back, Living Life to the Full. We can also help you learn vital skills and confidence to not only respond to someone who may be at risk for suicide or in crisis, but also reduce stigma by engaging in open conversations about suicide and managing our mental health.
As members of society we all have a responsibility to keep one another safe and we all can play a role in striving for safer communities. We encourage you to Ask About Suicide and find out more about our about our suicide alertness and risk reduction training courses. You don’t need to be a healthcare professional to learn how to save a life.
If you are an employer, if you are a coach of team, if you are a school teacher or if you are a member of a Labour organization call us and make a commitment to help those around you to learn the skills and gain the confidence to “Just Ask.”
If you’re triggered by the recent deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, it’s okay to set it aside and not read more about it. Sometimes it’s best to take a step back and take care of yourself. For more useful tips on how to cope with any negative feelings check out this article from Psychology Today.
If you you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-SUICIDE, or call your local crisis centre. For more mental health information and resources go to www.heretohelp.bc.ca.