I woke up today to learn the sad news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. He was incredibly successful, a chef with a number of very successful TV shows chronicling his adventures in the world of international and domestic foods. He was so talented, entertaining, engaging and charismatic. I would never have guessed that he was silently suffering beneath the surface. We are also still reeling from the suicide of fashion icon Kate Spade and still fresh in our memories the suicide deaths of the beloved Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, and many others. Suicide has become an epidemic.
I am not privy to the intimate details of the lives of these great individuals but depression is certainly a common denominator for these tragedies. Although some seek treatment for depression, many suffer in silence. Some do not have the concept of Therapy normalized in their life. This concept perhaps taboo in their up bringing and many feel stigmatized by their mental condition. I’ve heard therapy frowned upon by family members who have the “just buck up” kind of attitude toward depression and/or therapy. I believe the greatest catalysts for successful suicide is isolation, silence. When people lose hope and stop communicating about it. That is why it has been referred to as the silent killer. When one isolates himself and doesn’t talk about it, the impulse can grow and grow in one’s mind until it feels inevitable. The individual often feels so alone and believes no-one understands and there’s no point in trying to salvage himself. The nature of depression, if left unchecked, becomes a sort of self-perpetuating delusion which engulfs a person and covers up all the positive parts of ones life. It is a form of tunnel vision. Like a dark storm surrounding the individual. There may be light just beyond the threshold but one cannot see it and as such, sees no point in trying to reconnect with the positive, life affirming parts of his world. You cannot see the light and therefore it doesn’t exist.
In therapy, we work on finding your light. When you are depressed, you feel weakened and hopeless. One stops doing the things he loves to do because he feels low in energy, low in resolve. He then gets more depressed. This vicious cycle sinks one lower and lower into the abyss of depression. In Psychotherapy, you are guided back to the positive aspects of your world, you are directed back to the activities that are life affirming and motivating. Self-esteem improves when you realize that you can be engaged in the positive experiences and activities the world has to offer. Also, talking to someone with whom you don’t feel stigmatized and can talk openly validates what you’re going though and you can realize you’re not crazy or just “belly-aching”; your struggles have meaning. Letting out your personal demons can be freeing and release you from your depression without resorting to the desperate, last resort.
If you struggle with depression and/or have had suicidal thoughts, make an appointment with a mental health professional. Depression is a curable condition. If you or someone you are close with has depression or has expressed suicidal thought, make an appointment with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. If the person’s danger is more imminent and is talking seriously with thoughts about harming himself, you may need to bring him to an emergency room or even 911 if he is in danger but refusing to come get help. There are also suicide prevention hotlines which can help one in a moment of such crisis. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also call the samaritan hotline in NY where you can talk about your thoughts of self harm or other thoughts and feelings: Samaritans 24-Hour Crisis Hotline (212) 673-3000. For a great list of therapists in your area who may even accept your health insurance, you may also check out psychologytoday.com and choose “find a therapist”. You can also try goodtherapy.org or betterhelp.com.