In the last week, both designer Kate Spade and chef-journalist Anthony Bourdain decided to end their lives via suicide. It is, to put it bluntly, incredibly fucking sad.
It’s sad, yes, because they were successful and seemingly had the means to seek help; in fact, according to Andy Spade, Kate’s husband, she was working with doctors and dealing with her depression and anxiety. It’s sad, yes, because they leave behind loved ones – Kate’s husband and daughter, Anthony’s partner Asia Argento, as well as countless others. It’s sad, yes, because it triggers people with suicidal inclinations or mental illness.
And it’s sad because their deaths become spectacle when news outlets report on the hows of their deaths. I do not understand the impetus behind reporting on how exactly people take their own lives. There is, of course, the argument that that is part of the story, but, actually, it really isn’t. Knowing how exactly someone takes their own life does nothing for understanding the news other than satisfying the base, macabre instincts of consumers.
I was texting with my friend about the death of Bourdain, and he reminded me of a few other celebrities who had taken their own lives. When there were a few names that I didn’t recognize, I googled them and was greeted with explicit, black-and-white details of their death. In their little Wikipedia summary, it included “Cause of death,” like it was just another quirky fact.
I understand the desire to know; it’s the same reason we look at car accidents. There is a curiousity about death, and the people connected to it. But when I saw reporting on Kate Spade, and the rumored way she took her life, all I felt was this triggered sickness. Talking about how people died completely dehumanizes them. It turns the story from them, their lives, their struggles, and forces you to picture them as they literally died. Because that’s all that reporting the cause of death does: forces the reader to envision the reported in their final moment.
But instead of satiating any curiosity, knowing the methods just make me sick, like I had barreled in on these people’s loved ones in their moment of mourning. It turned their private emotion into public spectacle, for public consumption. It operates under the belief that we deserve to know, that we are owed something. We don’t, and we aren’t. god, it literally just makes me so sad – sad for Anthony and Kate, sad for their families and their friends and their fans, sad for people who will be triggered mortally by this, people who will find this affects them in ways that they can’t quite verbalize.
It’s all well and good to publicize the hotlines of suicide prevention (1-800-273-8255 is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; 1-866-488-7386 is the nymberof the Trevor Project) but I encourage you to reach out to people. It doesn’t have to be “Hey, are you okay?” It can be as simple as texting them hello, or to say that you’re thinking of them, or forwarding them a meme or a joke.
Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression prey on the fear that you are alone; dissuade that notion in the people in your life by showing them that that is not true. No one, ever, is alone. There is nothing so dark that you cannot come back; there is no hole too deep for your voice to echo upwards. Reach out; hold on. Please. Pleasepleaseplease. You matter so much, so greatly.