How can this be?
This week, two prominent people, both bright lights in their industries, died from suicide. Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef turned author and TV host, who seemed to always grab life by the lapels with vigor and humor, died June 8.
Kate Spade, the designer whose empire starting with women’s handbags, built a brand of joy – bright, playful and aspirational. She took her own life earlier in the week.
Both deaths garnered widespread news coverage, just as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that suicide rates have soared 30 percent nationwide since 1999. Every 13 minutes, someone in America dies by suicide.
We know. Our Center was founded to find big, bold new solutions to our mental healthcare crisis. Successful people like Spade and Bourdain may seem to have everything one could wish for, yet we know that no one is immune from the potential of mental illness.
Our small team at the National Mental Health Innovation Center has lost friends, family and acquaintances to suicide – some recently. No one is immune.
It’s why, while we are grieving the deaths of people we know only from a distance and feel the pain of losing a close loved one, we recommit ourselves to our work. NMHIC is not a clinical site; we don’t treat patients. But we do aim to find ways to expand care to more people, faster. Things like emerging technologies, building mental health expertise in the workplace, working with emergency responders to stem the tide of suicidality among their ranks, and more, may be part of the solution puzzle.
This work is important, and we are gratified by the partners throughout Colorado and the country who are eager to join us in finding urgently needed solutions that can be replicated quickly.
It is also important to remember that the vast majority of people suffering from mental illnesses do not attempt or complete suicide. That fact is a powerful reminder of resiliency and hope, of the human capacity to heal. Yet each death by suicide is one too many.
As we keep our focus on how we can contribute to ending the growing mental illness crisis, we urge you to do what you can, beginning with the simple step of talking.
The stigma around mental illness still remains far too high, although more people now are talking about it as an illness just like any other physical illness, one that can and should be treated. Every time we talk about mental health and mental illness, we chip away at the lingering stigma.
So, keep talking. And if you know anyone whom you suspect might be depressed, anxious or suffering from any other illness, ask. Ask them how they are doing. Ask if they are thinking of suicide. The experts assure us, you will not put the idea into their heads. Rather, your simple question might literally be a lifesaver.
Finally, if you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t wait another moment. Call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is a free and confidential service. Put the number in your phone right now, for future reference. But call, and call now, if you need help.
Be The 1: A nationwide movement from the National Suicide Prevention Helpline to guide us in how to save lives.
Crisis Text Line has trained crisis counselors available 24/7 for a confidential text line. Text HOME to 741741.
The Trevor Lifeline is a suicide prevention counseling service for the LGBTQ community. Call 1-866-488-7386.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention provides help outside of the US with a worldwide directory of resources and international hotlines.
To learn more about the work the National Mental Health Innovation Center is doing, visit our website.