We have lost some of our most beloved celebrities to suicide, from comedy genius Robin Williams to rock legend Chris Cornell.
Just last week, fashion designer Kate Spade wrote a letter to her 13-year-old daughter before hanging herself with a scarf at her home. Spade urged her daughter not to feel guilty in the letter, saying it wasnít her fault. A few days later, world-renowned chef and journalist Anthony Bourdain hanged himself in a French hotel room. Bourdain had been filming a segment for his series Parts Unknown earlier that day, and he seemed all right.
Thatís not uncommon for suicide victims. Like many who take their lives, Bourdain seemed OK until he wasnít. I spent the weekend reading about his life, quickly realizing he struggled with depression for a long time. I didnít know about his struggle, but it didnít surprise me. Iím well-acquainted with mental illness. I know how it is to feel dead inside while being very much alive. Itís torture. Somehow, itís also pretty easy to hide.
Someone wrote a comment on social media about Bourdain that really hit home for me. ďAnthony Bourdain lived the life of my dreams, and he was still unhappy,Ē they wrote. Thatís exactly how depression works. You can be on the top of the world. You can have a job you love. You can have a network of loving family and friends. You can have everything you ever wanted and still feel irrevocably broken.
When I was 12, my papaw killed himself in the early morning. He did it in the living room, the place where we opened Christmas presents every year. Even with different flooring and a new paint color, itís still the room where Papaw chose to end it all. Iíve gotten pretty good at putting it out of my mind when I visit, but you never forget something like that. The pain never goes away.
Fourteen years later, Iím still heartbroken when I think about Papaw. It sometimes feels as if I canít remember the good parts of him, because he died in such a violent, shocking way. Iíve struggled with blaming him for hurting our family. The thing is, his death itself wasnít entirely surprising. Papaw had cancer for years at that point. He struggled for a long time, and we expected him to go soon. None of us expected him to take his own life. We couldnít prepare for it. We didnít know what to do when it happened.
Looking back on it, I realize Papaw had been living in a mental prison for a while. He became accustomed to getting cut open and taking lots of medications. He had to give up smoking and drinking, his two favorite vices. He became frail and quiet. Before that, no one would ever describe him as frail and quiet. I know he struggled in ways I could never understand, yet I canít help but feel the sting of betrayal when I think of him. That makes me sad. It makes me really sad.
Spadeís daughter is 13. Bourdainís daughter is 11. I feel so much empathy for them, to lose their heroes in the most confusing way possible on the worldís stage. When someone you look up to commits suicide, itís easy to feel lost, angry, guilty, confused, or all these emotions at once.
Weíve lost some of our most beloved celebrities to suicide, and Iíd be willing to bet many of us have lost one of our most beloved people to suicide. I know I did. Sometimes I think I couldíve stopped it, even though thatís nonsense.
We canít stop anything thatís already happened, but we can try to do better moving forward. Reach out to people who are going through a hard time. Depression doesnít usually wear a frown, so reach out to people who seem like theyíre OK, too. You never know what someone else is going through. Please reach out. It makes a big difference.
If you reach out before itís too late, it makes all the difference.
ē ē ē
Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.