Kate Brosnahan Spade, the iconic fashion designer and savvy businesswoman died this morning. Yet another death caused by depression and suicide. And like with so many suicides, people are shocked. She appeared to have it all: a successful business, money, fame.
But those are not antidotes to depression. The illness doesn't discriminate, it affects the successful, the wealthy, the beautiful and the loved. And while the conversation surrounding mental health and suicide has increased, the stigma is still ever-present.
Is there an antidote to depression?
Plenty of blogs and resources preach the importance of living with gratitude and practicing self-care. Obviously important, but certainly not an antidote for depression. This is a public health issue tragically affecting millions of families every year. If there is an antidote, it lies in ending the stigma.
In order to end the stigma, this is the time for...
1- Open dialogue.
Enough with the bullshit and embarrassment. It's an illness, not a shameful secret. As Dr. Eugene Gu tweeted, "Depression is a life threatening illness just like heart disease, cancer, or sepsis. There should be no stigma about mental health — only treatment, awareness, and compassion." So let's treat it as such.
Incredibly saddened by Kate Spade’s tragic suicide at only 55. Depression is a life threatening illness just like heart disease, cancer, or sepsis. There should be no stigma about mental health—only treatment, awareness, and compassion. — Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) June 5, 2018
Between Avicii, Kate Spade, and Kanye’s recent mental health admission, I really hope this country starts to allocate the resources and attention that mental health clinics need to help others. — nyoldman (@NYDoorman) June 5, 2018
Talk about depression as you would cancer or heart disease. It sucks, it's unfair -- but certainly isn't shameful. One cannot will their way to beating cancer nor is it a weakness to get it, and the same goes for depression.
In order for society to advance, we must become informed on this subject. It's so crucial, it's actually a matter of life and death. With education, comes change - on both a personal and policy level. If we know increased access to mental healthcare is essential and make it a priority - we will see it.
About 300 million people worldwide of all ages experience depression, one mental health issue that is also the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the South African Federation for Mental Health.
"It is therefore crucial that people are educated about depression, and that all sectors of society are encouraged to speak openly and honestly about their experiences and struggles. Depression can affect anyone regardless of age, race, gender or socioeconomic status," the federation said in a recent press release addressing depression in specific.
Here are some stats regarding depression and suicide:
-Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. -25 million Americans suffer from depression each year -More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS -Every day, approximately 123 Americans take their own life
3 - Change the verbiage
Someone doesn't "commit" suicide. They aren't a criminal.
It isn't selfish. It's tragic, for everyone involved. Do not blame the victim.
Don't call someone crazy, weak, unbalanced, etc. These words do not create an environment conducive to openness and health. We're all guilty of this, I literally just told my dog to stop being "crazy" -- and I thought, "shit, that's a powerful word associated with mental health". From now on, he's bonkers, not crazy. Verbiage and language is important.
Depression isn't a weakness.
4- Share your story
Do your part to end the stigma and share your story. Shame can't survive if it's out in the open.
No one is alone in this.
Just as most, I struggle with depression. For as long as I can remember, I've dealt with a grey fog that comes and goes. As a deeply sensitive child, my superpower -- empathy and sensitivity -- wasn't always nurtured, nor did I know how to handle all those feelings. Family issues, stories of animal abuse, homelessness, racism, war, starving children... I felt so much and couldn't deal. I turned inward, developed severe anxiety and a crippling stutter.
I now know I'm an empath, so that's partly to blame, but so is genetics. My family has kick ass genes: we're healthy, live hella long lives, have adorable babies, and are smokin' hot as old people. But many of us struggle with depression. As an empath and deeply sensitive individual, it's often situational, but due to genetics, sometimes the reason is hard to pinpoint.
After my break up, I entered a really bad depression. If I didn't answer the phone, my mom would freak out and call my friends... fearing the worse. I've been there, but even though I know there's "no shame," I rarely talk about it with people, because I feel shame. And that's something we must change, each and every one of us. Shame turns people inward, and when your head is already a dark place, it only spirals and magnifies.
Accept your feelings, talk them out. Life is a journey, one we're all in together.
5- Look out for each other
We're always shocked when someone kills themselves -- but we shouldn't be. We're seeing more and more that it doesn't discriminate. It plagues the successful, the wealthy, the loved, and the beautiful. Send a lifeline to those struggling. It could save a life.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
What did I miss? Leave in the comments below.