The Ignorant Comments I Read After Kate Spade's Suicide
Another celebrity died by suicide. This month, it was Kate Spade. I just want to take a moment to recognize that this is a tragedy. I also want to recognize the way I’ve seen people react to the news is a tragedy, too. I’ve heard comments: “Oh that Hollywood must have something going on, there’s been so many suicides recently.” “I don’t get it, why can’t they just go take a two month vacation on an island. They have enough money.”
That’s not how depression works. It’s not going to be cured by a vacation, no matter how long or extravagant it is. It is not just a result of one’s environment. Depression is complicated, it’s heavy, it’s life-breaking. As someone who has lost someone to suicide, as someone who has survived suicidal thoughts so severe, they put me in the hospital overnight, these comments sicken me. My stomach has plummeted, my heart is furiously beating, my hands are shaking, I’m holding back tears.
I feel guilty for not confronting these comments in the moment, but at the same time why do the “afflicted” also have to play the role of the “educator?” Yet, someone needs to speak out. The night I wanted to die I could not have fixed my thoughts by running away from the situation. No island vacation could cure me. For me, managing my depression involves working through my fears, my hopelessness, my despair. It involves taking an antidepressant every day. It takes real work to live with what’s going on in my brain.
So please, let us recognize that depression is real. Please watch what you say when you speak of those who we have lost someone to suicide. The comments I heard hit me hard. Hard enough to trigger a full blown panic attack I could only handle by immediately leaving the environment I was in. I could not stop the swell of tears down my face or control my rapid breathing. I hated myself for not trying hard enough, for not “fixing my depression.” I fully recognize how ridiculous that thought was. But words have power. Hearing that someone thought depression could be cured by a vacation made me feel like a complete failure. I felt I should be able to control my depression, control my suicidal thoughts.
But I know the reality. I know depression is not my fault, and that there is no magic cure. As someone who frequently wakes up with suicidal thoughts in my head, I think the world would be a lot better place if people paused and educated themselves on mental illness. Please learn the reality of suicide before minimizing it with your words. Please realize your words can severely affect others. Please realize the battles those of us with mental illness face every day. Maybe if the world was more understanding, more sympathetic, we could help combat suicide. Maybe we could help people, help them realize they are not alone, that they are loved, that they are more than enough. Maybe we could help people before they feel like suicide is their only option. We can do better than ignorant comments. We have to.
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