“Things can be really empty in this world, and I don't just mean the music world. It can become a very meaningless place if you don't really understand: 'Who am I? Why am I here? What am I doing?' To feel fulfillment and have a deeper level of understanding, personally, that is the most important thing”.
Alicia Keys American Singer-Songwriter
To the disbelief of a Nation, American fashion designer Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, chef and storyteller died of suicide in the same week. Only days prior to their death, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report that highlighted a steep increase in United States’ suicide rates. The mental health community is concerned these high profile cases may create a suicide contagion - a process in which the suicide of one person or multiple people can contribute to a rise in suicidal behaviors among others.
Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK. Paid professionals and trained volunteers in crisis and suicide intervention are available 24/7. All conversations are confidential. To help friends and loved ones that may be a suicide risk, know the warning signs:
With suicide becoming a major public health issue, the CDC conducted a comprehensive study of suicides from 1999 to 2016.
"Suicide in this country really is a problem that is impacted by so many factors. It's not just a mental health concern," says Deborah Stone, a behavioral scientist at the CDC and the lead author of the new study. "There are many different circumstances and factors that contribute to suicide. And so that's one of the things that this study really shows us. It points to the need for a comprehensive approach to prevention."
The report further revealed that 54 percent of the people who died by suicide didn't have a previously known mental health issue. "Instead, these folks were suffering from other issues, such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, job or financial problems, and recent crises or things that were coming up in their lives that they were anticipating," says Stone. Obviously, more mental health resources are required for prevention and treatment. But, what can we do?
The Beatles song title “Come Together” may be the call for action. To watch over one another – to come to each other’s aid with a willingness to care and serve. The Biblical verse to “love one another” may ring true – appearing eleven times in the New Testament. My sister and two brothers, all younger than me, applied this great commandment several years ago when they stepped away from their lives to travel long distances to mentor me through a perilous and dark place – depression, precipitated by divorce. They came not for a day or weekend, but two weeks. Their gentle support of instruction and prayers, kindness and nonjudgmental understanding gave me the time and space to find a path forward.
Months prior to their visit, the shadow of suicide swirled in the chaotic mind. The fog and confusion of depression descended with a cascade of toxic emotions that perpetuated a sudden loss of trust and control, doubts of love-worthiness, finances, retirement planning, and a fractured family. Toughing it out on my own was a faulty construct. Isolation is not part of the survival instructions for this arduous life we strive to conquer. God designed us naturally for connection with a circle of unconditional love. “Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
While there are many factors that contribute to the rising prevalence of suicide and mental illness, the social stigma of shame and embarrassment deters many people from seeking professional therapy and confiding with family and friends. I remember getting lost in that dark, downward spiraling vortex. Initial breakout came from my local church pastors and the worship song leader. From there, family and a few close friends embraced me with their support and comfort. I wasn’t alone anymore.
For anyone caught in an isolated struggle, reach out to share your feelings and circumstances with people who care about you. No matter how dark life may currently feel, there’s the light of hope around the corner. It gets better with faith, family, and friends. It just does.
Who am I?
I am loved (1 John 3:3)
I am accepted (Ephesians 1:6)
I am a child of God (John 1:12)