Anthony Bourdain, dead at the age of 61. Suicide. I’m feeling such strong feelings about this tragic loss. On the heels of the news about Kate Spade earlier this week – I’m left in the wake of so many complex layers of thoughts and emotions.
From sadness and grief to anger and outrage. Suicide leaves us wondering “why?” and longing to reverse time.
As a psychotherapist, I’m so saddened that we’ve failed these souls.
As a society, I’m angered that we’ve reduced funding and support for mental health treatment and then encourage people to reach out for help when help has become so hard to access.
As a culture, I’m disgusted how we stigmatize and create barriers to admitting struggle and pain.
The shame of suffering from debilitating depression is crippling. People will do anything to avoid sharing the pain because they fear judgement, rejection, abandonment, ridicule or dismissive and invalidating responses.
Depression does not discriminate. The depth and desperation has no limits. It is not selective.
The wrenching isolation is paralyzing and distortive to reality leaving the sufferer questioning the value of their existence.
To those who think it’s a selfish act, your perspective is blind to the illness. They are desperate to stop the deep, unrelenting pain and many believe the world would be better off without them.
Most feel incredibly alone. Not just lonely. But so isolated there’s no space for them or no need for them to exist. That their life carries no value.
When did we become so ill equipped to handle pain and suffering in this culture? We fight against shame and vulnerability with every ounce of our being. We are an uber-success-focused, artificially syrupy sweet happy culture that has at times lost touch with the reality of the full spectrum of human emotion. If things are not perfect, they must be hidden or fixed. If we are the slightest bit uncomfortable, we must be abnormal or dysfunctional and we must seek to change it immediately.
When did we become like this? How did this happen?
We seem to have lost our ability to make space for struggle. We seem to have forgotten that suffering is part of the human experience. I fear we are setting up the next generation to be even more out of touch with how hard life can be at times and even more susceptible to intense shame and depression that stays hidden and unaddressed.
So how can we make change here?
We can start by being brave enough to share authentically.
We can begin by being honest about our own struggle and strife. About our own depression and anxiety or mood disorders or addictions. We can courageously share that we’re not perfect and that we sometimes feel radically alone or a debilitating sense of isolation.
We can remember that connection and empathy and validation ARE the answer when someone we care about is suffering.
That we don’t have to rescue or save them. We don’t have to fix it. We just have to see them and hear them without judgement. That bearing witness to someone’s story and holding space for someone to share something deeply personal or something raw and real is a powerful beginning to help.
Let’s increase our sensitivity meter. Together let’s make a promise to reach out and check in with our tribe. Let’s send that note or text when we’re thinking of someone. Let’s be more inclusive and more connected. Let’s call and show up for people.
Let’s move away from our callus desensitized, over-burdened, too busy to care lives!
Let’s slow down and tune in – first with ourselves and then with each other.
Suffering is temporary. Suicide is permanent. Please know there are answers and you are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line 741-741 Free text-message service provides 24/7 support to those in crisis. Text to be connected with a trained crisis counselor right away.
Please share this – you never know who you’re reaching.