Let’s start talking about suicide

Why? Why? Why? That one word keeps rattling around in my brain after hearing about the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. Celebrity deaths are always shocking, but his death has hit me hard. I’m so very sad for his loved ones and the loss of his one-of-a-kind storytelling that would make you want to immediately hop onto a plane to a far-flung country, and eat and drink in the sketchiest restaurant imaginable. He not only changed the way people thought about eating, but made the world a much smaller place by showing that no matter where you live, humans share a commonality through food.

His apparent suicide and the suicide of Kate Spade, show that outward appearances don’t show what’s really going on with a person on the inside. We make assumptions. We see a rich and famous person smiling for the camera, (or in Bourdain’s case, looking straight into the camera to make an astute and snarky observation) and think they lead a charmed life, but depression and other mental health issues don’t discriminate.  These high-profile deaths prove it.

Statistics prove it too. Just yesterday, the CDC released a report showing a sharp rise in suicide rates across the United States. In 2016, nearly 45,000 people died by suicide, more than twice the number of homicides. Think about those numbers. Let those numbers set into your brain. Now think about this. For people between the ages of 15 and 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.

This public health crisis breaks my heart. These are preventable deaths, but the stigma around suicide make people fearful about talking about it. I know I’m only one person, but I’m doing what I can to shatter that stigma. For the last couple of years I’ve been working on a documentary about teenage suicide. The documentary, called The Edge of Success, looks at this issue from the kids’ perspective. I’ve learned so much from the amazing teenagers we feature simply by talking to them, and maybe more importantly, just listening to them.

Too often, we see someone and don’t ask this question. Are you ok? Once again, we make assumptions. But there is help. There is hope. Repeat after me. There is help. There is hope.

You are never alone. If you can’t go to a friend or loved one, there are plenty of suicide prevention resources. First off is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Here’s the number available 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There’s also a Crisis Text Line. Text  741741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.

My heart will be heavy today. I know I’ll be asking my family and friends if they’re ok. And I’ll also be raising a glass to honor Anthony Bourdain. I hope he is able to rest in peace.


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