24/7 Confidential Hotline

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Untreated Mental Illness and Suicide

Whenever someone famous commits suicide, it forces the nation to ask some hard questions about the prevalence of mental illness and access to treatment. The act of taking one’s life doesn’t, after all, occur in a vacuum! People who are wrestling with suicidal ideations are almost always contending with some form of mental health condition, notably depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorder. Of course, any one of the multiple psychological diseases can precipitate self-harm.

There exists a significant barrier to preventing suicide; most people are not apt to discuss their internal struggles with friends and family. We have a long history of sweeping mental illness under the rug in the United States. In the 21st Century, stigma is alive and well; many people fear the real and imagined consequences of talking about their symptoms. As a result, people do not seek assistance even when they have the resources to access effective methods of treatment. Such a reality is never more evident than when a celebrity ends his or her life.

Millions of Americans and millions more around the globe are reeling over the recent loss of two icons in their respective fields. The untimely deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain came as a massive shock to all who are familiar with the two’s contribution to fashion and culinary appreciation. It seems only right that we discuss suicide in some detail; while nothing can be said that will bring them back, we have an opportunity to encourage others who are struggling to seek mental health services. Rose McGowan wrote an open letter after Bourdain’s death; one line stands out particularly:

“There is no one to blame but the stigma of loneliness, the stigma of asking for help, the stigma of mental illness, the stigma of being famous and hurting.” 

Suicide: The Culmination of Untreated Mental Illness

The media is hard at work tossing around opinions and speculating as to why two people at the height of their careers would opt out of life? It is documented that both Kate and Anthony had had a history of psychological issues and at least one of them (possibly both) had unhealthy relationships with drugs and alcohol. There has been some debate regarding Kate Spade's problems; however, Bourdain was no stranger to addiction and reportedly battled depression.

We’ll never glean what finally drove either of them to suicide. Although, most people with even the slightest understanding of mental illness would likely agree that both deaths may have been avoidable. Agree that if people felt that talking about their mental woes was socially acceptable more people would seek assistance. In the rooms of addiction recovery, whenever the subject of suicide comes up, it is almost a guarantee that someone will share that, “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” The statement is cliché, catchy, and contains a nugget of truth. The quasi-axiom can be taken in one of two ways; to the non-suicidal, it is usually met with acceptance; to the someone who is contemplating suicide, it may be viewed as another person’s attempt to minimize their pain. To the suicidal, their mental ache is anything but temporary, even if that isn’t the truth.

Regarding the former, it is true that mental illness or personal problems that find a compassionate forum can be transcended. With the right help and continued maintenance to keep symptoms in check, people can lead a productive and healthy existence. However, we all must be careful, even those in recovery, to avoid saying things to our peers that invalidates a person's feelings. In place of witticisms, let's do better to exude compassion, empathy, and encouragement.



The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention makes clear that suicide in America is more prevalent than most people think. In fact, on any given day of the year, there is an average of 123 suicides in the United States. Men die by suicide 3.53 times more often than women. Each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the US. If you are contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

The Haven at Pismo can help you or your loved one break the cycle of addiction and assist you in learning how to manage the symptoms of co-occurring mental illness. Please contact us today to find out more information about our program.