The recent passing of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have opened up the conversations we need to keep having: mental illness is a real thing and while invisible, it can be debilitating and lonely. It is not enough to only talk about it when it occurs. We need to keep that conversation going, to ensure people that they are not alone.
Last year I wrote a piece on the passing of Chester Bennington, a brilliant musician who lost his battle with depression and died by suicide. Today, after hearing about the second celebrity suicide in one week, I revisited that piece. I took time to reread I was reminded why I wrote it.
I’m here to bring awareness about a very real situation.
I am a woman who has lived with depression and anxiety for over twenty years. I am also a suicide survivor. It took me a long time to find the words to describe my experience to share it with the general public, but I did it. I did it because there are too many people living under their cloaks, afraid to take them off. There are too many people who find it necessary to paint over their faces and souls because they can’t to be vulnerable.
Depression is a disease. It’s an illness. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It doesn’t discriminate and it has no preference who it attacks.
About 4000 Canadians die by suicide every year.
We – society – is in the habit of viewing celebrities as content and happy people because they can do whatever they want. They have the freedom to travel and live limitless lives.
But the reality of the lives of some celebrities became clear this week. Money and fame don’t necessarily equal happiness. To me, Anthnoy Bourdain, a celebrity chef, had it all; he had a career I could only wish I had. He had fame, fortune, had his own show, traveled the world to experience different experiences and foods, and had his own cookbook. But unbeknownst to me and the rest of the world, he was battling demons we knew nothing about.
The stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness is staggering, so much so that after I had my published piece on suicide out there, I was worried about what people who didn’t know about it would think about me. I was worried they would think I was selfish and inconsiderate. But what a lot of people are forgetting is that for those suffering, it’s much more than that.
We need to understand that the stigma around mental illness doesn’t just affect us ‘general’ people, it affects everyone.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we really do need to keep the conversations about mental illness and suicide open.
If you’re reading this and your lost, or confused, or feeling alone, I promise you this, you are not alone.
I hear you. I see you. I am you.
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
Canadian Mental Health Association