This morning the world learned that celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, the host of CNN’s popular food and travel series, Parts Unknown, committed suicide while working in France. There is a collective “WTF?” in the atmosphere. Trendsetting fashion designer Kate Spade took her life only three days before.
Family, friends, and colleagues of Bourdain and Spade undoubtedly face the brunt of this loss. They are the ones who will no longer be able to pick up a phone and hear the voice of a loved one. They are the ones who will have to face an empty chair at graduations, weddings, and other special events. They are the ones who will be reminded of this tragedy every time they smell a scent, need a hug or wish to kiss the departed. But the collective mourn along with them, in a different way.
Learning that someone you admired, even from a distance, has taken his or her life is sad, stressful and can be traumatic for some. It can leave people feeling confused, anxious and even guilty. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, approximately 123 people commit suicide each day— it’s the tenth leading cause of death.
Mental health can be an uncomfortable subject. While there any many risk factors for suicide (depression, substance abuse, physical illness, history of mental illness), there is no way to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. People will have suicidal ideations but will never make an attempt, while others may try to take their own lives several times before anyone is even aware. Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution, but there is always hope. If you believe someone is a danger to themselves, connect them with resources and get experts involved. Most importantly, don’t forget to help yourself if you’re suffering.
If someone you know personally, or from a distance, has taken his or her own life it may impact you significantly. Here are some ways you can manage those feelings.
Accept Your Own Sadness
Mourn the loss. It’s okay to feel down when bad things happen. Give yourself time to cry, be sad or just off. Understand that this is a natural part of grief and concealing your sorrow doesn’t help you heal.
Sometimes a terrible incident touches on a personal loss or experience, compounding our emotional response. Consider what the recent deaths are bringing up for you, whether it’s an issue that you need to address with professional help or simply something that you can reasonably expect to feel when bad things happen.
Wait For Facts
There’s always a lot of speculation around the “why” when it comes to suicide, especially when there’s a perception that a person “had it all.” The more you know about an individual’s journey, the more compassion and understanding you will have for their feelings of hopelessness. This may help with acceptance and closure.
Talk About It
Suicide is a taboo subject for many, and the uneasiness leads to silence. While it’s important to respect how others may feel about the topic, some are open to discussing and creating spaces to share feelings and answer questions. Ask your loved ones how they are feeling about the subject and let the response dictate the depth of the conversation.
Professional therapists are an excellent resource for people who want a space to talk and unwind candidly. Your counselor can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress, trauma, and sadness.
Powerless. That’s often how people feel when there is an unexpected loss. Taking action and helping others is a great way to rebalance some of that energy. Volunteer, donate, attend events, and do whatever it takes to help you feel like you are part of the change and not just the loss.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with depression reach out for support. You’re not alone.