If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or just need to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or visit our emergency mental health resources page.

Mental health seems to be having a moment this week—a really bad moment.

First there was the death of iconic handbag designer Kate Spade, then the CDC released a report1 confirming the disturbing news that suicide rose across the country in all but one state, with increases across age, gender, race, and ethnicity and now—today—news that another celebrity, Anthony Bourdain, has also taken his life.

As bad news streaks go, this one seems appalling by any measure. Psycom reached out to the mental health community for insight:

As noted in the CDC report, problems most frequently associated with suicide are “strained relationships; life stressors—often involving work or finances; substance use problems; physical health conditions and a recent or impending crisis”.  The report also suggests that many people who die by suicide aren’t known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death, suggesting perhaps that suicide is a problem for anyone struggling in life.

Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told the Washington Post earlier this week“…[that statistic] suggests to me that [people not diagnosed with a mental health condition] are not getting the help they need.”

While the lack of access to mental health care is definitely a problem in the U.S. where mental health treatment often isn’t fully covered by insurance putting it out of reach for many. But that certainly wasn’t a problem for Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain whose fame and fortune would give them access to top doctors and the best hospital care available. One possibility–a lack of awareness regarding their inner turmoil, or the inability to communicate their distress to family or friends. Consider this  Facebook post from the mother of a teenager who took his life less than 2 years ago:

“To those wondering how this could happen, remember that people who are in distress may not always be able to communicate that distress to those who love them and are around them. But we need to always be there to listen and to get them to people who can help. Talk saves lives. If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.”

Self-awareness seems like such a simple concept yet many of us admit to being distracted by the busyness of our lives or just doggedly determined to live up to the image of the carefully-curated lives we’ve created on Instagram and other social media platforms.

Life in the Cookline

For another perspective, PsyCom spoke to Chef Ariane Duarte, the owner of Ariane Kitchen & Bar  (aka AKB) in Verona, New Jersey. In addition to working in the industry for decades, she appeared in, and is remembered for, her roles on Top Chef (Season 5) and Beat Bobby Flay. She and Anthony Bourdain came up in the same physically grueling kitchens and worked for the same demanding chefs in Manhattan—standing 12 hours a day sweltering in the nearly unbearable heat of a cookline. (Anthony’s daughter is also named Ariane. “I like to say it was because he liked my name when we met and remembered it,” she says.)

“Cooking in the 1980s and 90s involved a lot of illegal drugs, cigarettes, late nights and pretty self-destructive behavior. That was how we got through the day in restaurants back then,” Ariane said describing her early experiences. To Ariane, Anthony, aka Tony, was the epitome of cool. “I mean just look at him. Seemingly so invincible and so cool. Makes you wonder if he was living a lie,” she says. “But then again maybe it proves you can never really be sure what someone is struggling with in their personal lives.”

As for getting help with inner turmoil, Ariane recommends seeking professional help. Feeling at her wits end, Ariane successfully overcame a personal struggle of her own recently.

“Almost a year ago, I had a breakdown. I had a successful business and a supportive family but the stress of the business—dealing with customers and staff that kept turning over–was getting to me. My personality was changing—I was becoming mean. Yelling at everyone and feeling really stressed out. I was even making people cry.” Ariane says she didn’t like what she was but wasn’t sure how to address the problem.

It was a random Facebook post that ended up changing her life. “I wasn’t familiar with the term life coach at the time but that’s what made the difference for me, ” Ariane explains.

Life coach Scott Chesney helped her take a hard and painful look at her worst qualities. “He polled my friends and my staff. I knew what they were going to say but hearing about their dislikes really motivated me to work to move past them,” she remembers. “I think Scott was brought into my life for that very reason and I’m in a much better place today. Having your mental health in order is the key.”

Today Ariane makes time to slow down and gets coverage at the restaurant so she can take breaks from work to spend time with her family. “It’s an absolutely essential component to my happiness and ability to cope.”

Suicide: The Aftermath

If you are struggling with a loss from suicide, events of this week may certainly have triggered painful memories. Here, more first-hand advice to help you cope.

Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, CDN is a health and self-help writer whose work has appeared on PsyCom and sister site, OnTrack Diabetes. Susan has a family history of several suicide attempts and successful suicides and admits to writing on mental health topics as a way of helping herself. She also recommends the writings of Adele Ryan McDowell, PhD, author of Making Peace with Suicide.

Dr. McDowell describes the aftermath of suicide as “a complicated loss” for those who are left behind. In addition to the trauma of what is often a sudden and unexpected death, and perhaps the burden of a broken taboo, friends and family members may experience deep feelings of anger.

On top of the anger, there is often a layer of guilt. Though you did the best you could, you may judge yourself too harshly for your all-too-human responses and behavior toward the person you lost. The trauma of a loved one’s suicide may also trigger memories of other traumas,  just as the loss of a human life triggers memories of other losses, resulting in a cascade of emotions flowing over grief.

Like all healing, recovery from a suicide happens in stages, according to the author.  “You must take however long it takes you to move from anger, guilt and grief to acceptance of the reality of this loss, forgiveness (which doesn’t necessarily mean you condone the action), and compassion for both the person who took their life and for yourself,” Dr. McDowell adds. “Always remember: They didn’t do this to hurt you; they did this to release themselves from unbearable pain.”

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Last Updated: Sep 18, 2019