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What We Miss When We Focus on the Wealth and Success of Celebrities Who Die by Suicide

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Too many headlines with the word “suicide” in them this week. Of course even one is one too many. As a stranger looking from the outside, it’s easy to be caught completely off guard when you read about these famous, wealthy people feeling they had no other option but to end it all. A lot of us struggle so hard to make ends meet or to find ways to lead more “fulfilling” lives that we simply can’t understand how someone who seems to live a life we can only dream of would turn around and “throw it all away.”

That’s because we tend to confuse physical worth with self-worth. Public adulation with self-love. To someone who can’t escape that voice in their head constantly beating them down, these are things that can disappear in the blink of the eye.

Depression, anxiety and other disorders can completely skew one’s view of reality. What you might consider a minor mistake or a fleeting moment of human weakness are crimes that those battling these demons often can never forgive themselves for, let alone forget. It’s not that they don’t look for help. It’s not that they don’t put everything they have into conquering those demons. They do. They fight every day.

It catches up to them, though. Dealing with a mental or emotional disorder isn’t as simple as casting a leg when it’s broken, or getting a wound stitched. It’s a constant series of raised hopes, false starts, periods of calm and setbacks that convince you you’re never going to be able to beat the disorder. That’s when things get dangerous. When you become convinced that no matter what you do, no matter how many therapy sessions you take or medicines you try, nothing is ever going to change. Even if they do for a little while, you’ll just end up back where you started. it’s easy to feel like there’s no point to fighting any longer.

As far as loved ones? Fighting and staying for them? It’s hard to make that argument to someone thoroughly convinced that they are nothing more than a burden hung around the necks of those they love.

Which is when we start seeing these headlines. 

So don’t assume someone is OK simply because of their monetary success or public approval rating. Remember, they may not see the worth we see in them. The disorder may not let them. In some ways, it may be even worse because they have everything we claim makes life worth living, and the pain is still there. If fame and success can’t fix the problem, then what the hell can?

All any of us can do is try to understand that and acknowledge that pain and desperation come in different forms. Allow for the fact that everyone hurts at one time or another. Don’t disregard someone’s pain or their struggle just because they don’t appear to be battling the same battles you are.

Keep your eyes open. Look for the signs in the people you love. You don’t necessarily have to understand their pain. you just have to acknowledge it, and be the safe harbor they need when it’s at its worst. Let them know that no matter what they may think of themselves, they’ve got someone who won’t turn away. The fight might be ongoing, but it’s not one they’ll have to fight alone.

Photo via Anthony Bourdain Facebook page

Originally published: June 8, 2018
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