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4 Feelings I Had After Hearing the News of Kate Spade's Suicide

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High-profile suicides are difficult.

I was getting back from lunch with co-workers when I heard two younger employees in the office talking intensely with each other. I joined in asking, “What’s up guys?” They quickly asked me, “Did you hear, Kate Spade killed herself today?” Following their question with that uncomfortable smile that is often plastered on one’s face when they’re not quite sure what is socially acceptable to say next.

Three minutes later I unlock my phone to a news article detailing specifics on how Spade took her life.

Five minutes later, I’m bombarded with old high school friends group chat messages. Girls saying, “I can’t believe she killed herself!” and sharing tabloid articles discussing the events further in detail.

Ten minutes later, I receive a message from my mom asking if I heard, if I was OK and what my thoughts were. This constant flow of information, conversation and news bombardment continued throughout the rest of the day.

I always struggle to put into words how I feel when society loses an impactful person like Spade to suicide, but I am going to try to lay out the good and bad.

The first feeling I have is one of hopelessness. Hopelessness because if someone who seemingly has led a fulfilling life, has financial access to all possible mental health resources… how in the world am I and others struggling with mental illness going to survive? In addition, when I particularly hear that someone older died by suicide, celebrity or not, it adds to the level of hopelessness. We are always told, “it gets better,” but when someone who has been on this earth for a few decades reaches the point that Kate Spade and so many others have reached… the notion of life getting better and the pain stopping seems pretty bleak.

The second feeling I have is loneliness. When a high-profile suicide occurs, it creates a buzz. I am usually not one to talk about my mental illness struggles openly, and in all honesty, very few individuals know the extent of where I’m at. I feel lonely when the conversation is buzzing about suicide and depression, because though they are relevant topics to my own struggles, I retreat. I wish I didn’t retreat. I wish I was able to actively join the casual conversation, but in doing so… it would almost feel like I’d be giving myself away.

The third feeling I have is fear. I fear for myself, and I fear for everyone else that is impacted by a high-profile suicide. Every loss is significant. That being said, when a celebrity is lost, the mourning period is exacerbated. Not only do family and the friends mourn, but so does the whole world. The whole world is continuously reminded of the loss by media outlets and casual conversation. Grief for the loss is prolonged by the coverage and can make it difficult for those affected to properly process and understand the loss.

The final feeling, though contradictory to the first feeling I can identify, is one of hopefulness. I am hopeful that through the increase in conversation, others will be inspired to seek out help. Not all conversation surrounding a celebrity loss to suicide is ignorant, it helps great organizations and advocates gain spotlight and expand the conversation.

Speaking from experience, suicidal thoughts can linger. They can fester and dominate someone’s world. Suicidal thoughts are scary.

What can help keep someone safe is by getting them to actually talk about what’s going on. Suicide and mental illness can be very lonely. Talking about one’s struggles creates the feeling that they do not have to fight their battles alone and in the dark. I am not claiming that all suicide can be prevented by someone feeling comfortable enough to open up and talk — that would be naive. What I am saying is that it can be an initial step needed to both stay alive and heal. Suicide is complex, and high-profile suicides aid in the complexity, but this does not mean that it cannot be fought. I have hope this recent tragedy will be the catalyst for a conversation about efforts to improve mental health, making those facing the greatest danger a little bit less alone and safer.

Screenshot via CNN Twitter

Originally published: June 7, 2018
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