MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS: LESSONS FROM SPADE AND BOURDAIN

Two tragic celebrity deaths rocked the world on the first full week of June 2018. Kate Spade, a world-acclaimed American fashion designer, died of an apparent suicide by hanging in her Manhattan apartment on 5 June 2018. Three days later, the body of Anthony Bourdain, one of the world’s biggest names in the culinary world, was found hanging from an apparent suicide in a hotel room in France.

The world was visibly thrust into mourning over these two suicides, and mental health was the most talked about topic on social media last week. For most people, it was a shock that high profile individuals like these two individuals would even think about taking their own lives. However, this is not the first time we have heard or read reports on shocking celebrity suicides.

Just two months ago, the world lost one of the most remarkable and talented DJ and record producer ever, Avicii, to suicide. Other notable personalities who have committed suicide over the years include the likes of Kurt Corbain, Chris Benoit (celebrity professional wrestler), and Chester Bunnington (front man for Linkin Park) among many, many others.

People outside the celebrity realm often wonder why people with such means would decide to take their own lives. These people can afford the best food, the best help, the best clothes, plus all of the other material things that all of us desire. We put them on a pedestal because we are envious of them, and what they have, as well as what they have achieved. We all want to be celebrities, and to be rich and famous, because we believe that achieving such stardom will help us be happy and content.

So, why would a celebrity such as Anthony Bourdain, or Kate Spade, or any celebrity for that matter, decide to end their seemingly perfect lives?

The answer is simple. Mental illness plagues anyone regardless of social status. You can be the richest, prettiest, or smartest person on earth and still feel worthless. Celebrities look like they might have it all, but just like the rest of us; they can also suffer from depression amongst a host of other mental illnesses.

Suicide rates are at a profound increase, all over the world, amongst celebrity and non-celebrity individuals. Here in Kenya, for instance, suicide accounts for approximately 10 out of every 100,000 deaths, with the most affected group being men based on data gathered over the course of last year. Reports indicate that suicide in Kenya is most common amongst teenagers, members of the police force and campus students. Majority of the individuals in these groups who successfully take their own lives are men.

Depression drives most of the suicides in this country, and it is essential that all Kenyans, irrespective of age, understand how mental illnesses including chronic depression can drive them to self-harm and even to ending their lives.

Suicide ideation is usually one of the biggest telltale signs that an individual is suffering from depression or another form of mental illness. If you are having suicidal thoughts or you know of a friend who is having such thoughts, there is help. You can call the Kenya suicide hotline number +254722178177.

It is also important to reach out to your friends or colleagues when you notice that they are not themselves. Usually, people battling with depression and other mental afflictions display long bouts of sadness, mood swings, and anger, and they often tend to withdraw themselves from people. In most instances, such individuals often feel ashamed or afraid, and they cannot bring themselves to confide in others especially about their suicidal thoughts.

It is up to each one of us to be mindful of one another, in order for us to notice when someone is going through a dark phase. Reach out, offer a listening ear as well as some encouragement, and encourage them to seek professional help. Reaching out like this can go a long way in saving somebody’s life in the end.

Here at Canvas, we are committed to promoting mental health awareness by providing support to programs that help spread this awareness throughout the country.