Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain: Why do people commit suicide?

What do Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have in common, besides the fact they each shocked us by taking their own lives?  They were each famous: Kate Spade the designer of iconic handbags, and Anthony Bourdain the celebrity chef who toured the gastronomic world in a CNN series.

They were each wealthy: Kate Spade sold her brand to Neiman Marcus for $124 million, and Anthony Bourdain had a net worth of over $16 million. They were each at the pinnacle of their chosen fields. So what was so wrong with their lives that suicide felt like the “right” solution to end their pain?

The problem is we only can see the upper stories of the house of their lives. We see their fame and fortune, we read about their wealth and their A list friends, and we see how they stay at the finest hotels and fly in private jets.

What we don’t see is what is behind the hedge. We don’t know about their emotional, spiritual and intellectual foundation, their love and family life (undistorted by tabloid fake news), and above all we don’t know about their physical and mental health.

We all have bad days. Things go wrong or we are disappointed with someone or something, we have money problems, love problems, health problems, chronic illness, a job we hate….BUT most of us manage to work our way through the problems of life and emerge on the other side to better days. So what happens when the depression is so severe and the despair so profound that a person cannot see any way out of their “emotional pit, despair and deep internal loneliness? 

From all outward appearances Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain seemed to have it all. Professional achievements can be wonderful, but they don’t necessarily create a reason for living, happiness and the joy of being alive.  Some of us mistakenly think that if we had those things our lives would be perfect. But that is not true.

So why do people commit suicide?  For most people it is a deep depression that seems to go on and on and on and feels never ending.  It is usually accompanied by hopelessness with a feeling that life itself and daily living can no longer be tolerated as it is too painful. It is not so much that people want to “die”, but they want to “escape feelings” they can no longer tolerate.

Anthony Bourdain had a persona that was happy, carefree, loved exploring the world and living fully in it.  It is important to remember that just because people “act as if they are happy and enjoying life” that may not be true.  They may be making an effort to show a “happy” face to the world, but underneath that persona they may be suffering  so much that death feels like a better option than life.  We don’t know if these well-known people were seeking help, were physically ill (as Robin Williams was with devastating Lewy Body dementia when he committed suicide), we only know that they were famous, happy, seemed to have it all and took their own lives.  How many people around us may seem like they are fine, but beneath their “mask” are having feelings of loneliness, despair, intolerable depression or illness?  The important thing to remember is that people are not always what they seem to be.

There is much hope for people with depression if they find the right doctors and receive the right medications and treatment. I have seen many people so depressed they thought they would never come out of it….but they did.  Today we are fortunate to have a remarkably effective arsenal available of anti-depressive and anti-anxiety medications. But it takes a doctor expert in psychopharmacology to find the right one for you. Keep trying and seek a second opinion if what you have been prescribed is not making a difference within a week or two.

We also each need to look around us and also within ourselves and be kind to  ourselves and each other,  reach out to people we know, smile and show kindness whenever we can to people we meet or pass on the street. Loneliness is a horrible, isolating existence. The world to some doesn’t feel welcoming, feels unsafe, unfriendly and scary. Someone smiling, being friendly, helping out can make a world of difference. If you or someone you know is depressed or has overwhelming anxiety there are professional people who have the training and understanding and know  how to help. All of us at one time or another will experience some kind of loss, trauma, or setback in life, but there are people there to help if we reach out to them.

There is a saying that:  Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. We have to “make it through the darkness” until the morning and the sun comes back into our lives.

Most of us have bad days, even sometimes bad months, but we know that the “tide of life” will change and things will get better.

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