Last week two more prominent people in their industries took their own lives. You may have heard about fashion designer, Kate Spade and TV Personality and Chef, Anthony Bourdain. My heart ached for both of them and the broken hearts they left behind.
These two people were in the limelight and, from an outsider’s perspective they looked like they had it all: Fame, Fortune, and Family. It makes me wonder what happened to these two souls that death was a better option than life? Sadly, I’m reminded that depression does not discriminate.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve mourned a death of a celebrity. My heart has broken over news of stars like Kurt Cobain, Robin Williams, and Chris Cornell, to name a few. And, I’m no stranger to mourning the death of someone I personally knew that died by their own hand. The rising death tolls due to suicide is alarming. When I was growing up you didn't hear about suicide as much as you do today and you certainly didn't speak of depression or anxiety.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety on and off for years. Some of my darkest days happened during a time that should have been one the happiest times in my life - right after the birth of my daughter. I had awful postpartum depression and I felt so guilty about the way I was feeling. I was supposed to feel happy that God blessed me with a beautiful, healthy baby girl, but instead I felt like Winnie-the-Pooh’s pal, Eeyore, and had dark cloud accompanying me everywhere I went.
When I finally went to therapy I resisted taking any kind of medication for a long time. I clearly remember wondering what people would think if they found out that I was taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. I prided myself on being strong willed, but now I would be perceived as weak-minded and incapable of dealing with my emotions. I was told time and time again, what I was feeling was in my head and I was thinking too much.
What some people fail to understand is that when we get in our head, it's sometimes very difficult to get out there. It's like treading water with tired arms and sometimes it feels easier to drown than to keep afloat.
This way of thinking is part of what I feel is wrong with our society. The stigma that is associated with mental health needs to be addressed. The suicide rates are increasing at an alarming rate - an increase of approximately 30% in the last 20 years according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Suicide was rated the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34 in 2016 and there were twice as many deaths related to suicide than homicide!
Looking back it was the shame I felt that kept so much of what I was feeling locked inside. I didn’t know how to ask for help. I was embarrassed. It wasn’t until a co-worker gently suggested that I talk to someone about my “blues” and pointed out our insurance would cover the cost. I’m not sure if that was her way of easing my mind about the way I was feeling or what it was, but I am thankful that I took her advice.
There’s a direct correlation between the increase in use of social media and online dating with depression and anxiety. I hear of more people talking about feelings of loneliness and despair. More and more people comparing their lives and self-worth to what they see others posting. I see and hear of more children and teens having trouble connecting and associating with their peers. We’ve stopped talking to one another. We have become dependent on our devices to communicate, shop, get the news, check the weather, etc. Almost everywhere you look someone has their head in their smart phone.
We have the power to change the stigmatism that is associated with mental health. We need to communicate with others, especially those we love, and share our stories. We need to show compassion to those who are struggling and reach out to those who we think might be struggling and we need to do so gently and without judgement.
If you are struggling, please, please reach out to someone or contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Keep the faith in knowing that the sun shines after the storm. You just need to weather the storm to see it. There are people to help you through it.
Wishing you wellness and love.