Why Suicide? What we must do about the loss of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade

I am deeply saddened by the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade in the past few days.

I learned so much from Anthony Bourdain’s shows. He brought the world into our homes. Both Anthony and Kate were shining lights in our country.

Suicides are on the rise. The suicide rate in the US is double that of the homicide rate with an increase in 28% from 1999 to 2016 reported by the CDC.

What is going on?

I have observed changes in people as a physician over the past 3 decades; changes in emotional and psychological well-being. People feel more separated, isolated and lonely in our country. The feeling of being part of a community is rare. The collective consciousness is more ‘me’ focused and more focused on the small rather than the big picture.

My patients tell me over and over again, every day that they don’t feel comfortable sharing how they REALLY feel with anyone. They find solace when they talk about this in my office, when they reveal their innermost grief and may be still be mourning losses from years ago. Many of them weep without ceasing. Holding space for them is sacred and an honor for me in my work.

This is a complex and multi-faceted issue. We all know that we are a society of “quick-fixes”. Therapy is considered a stigma and many feel embarrassed to even see a therapist. People feel they need to “get over” their feelings and get on with life. Our feelings are not given the proper container or attention they need. Our collective consciousness negates how we feel. We somehow feel weak if we are not ‘fine’.

Doing process work/transformation is NOT normalized in our society.

It is hard work which requires courage and endurance and most often is a solitary process.

Life presents us with many challenges. As someone who was plagued with profound depression many times in my life, and grew up around a mother who was chronically and deeply depressed from her childhood trauma, I can say without a doubt that the isolation that one feels when depressed without anyone to talk to is mind-numbing.

We no longer live in a village and most are no longer vested in the well-being of another.

We must change this. What we need to normalize is the importance of accessing the courage required to have authentic relationships with one another. Being there for one another, bearing witness and being witnessed by another is the greatest gift we can give and receive. There is something profoundly sacred and powerful about this that cannot be put into words. Even if people have mental illness, psychological or emotional pain (which we all have), just having someone to talk to, to connect with authentically, heals the isolation that amplifies feelings. Being authentically ‘seen and heard’ from another’s open heart is palpable. It can even give us the will to live, and sometimes to just get through the day.

Being ‘truly seen’ by another makes us feel that we matter.

Please take this to heart.

We as a country are a community and two remarkable people who were shining lights in it have been extinguished.

Let us not let them die in vain.

Let us come together with one another and heal our collective shadow of isolation. Let us become the community that we once were in our sacred country.

Let us authentically be there for one another again.

We must all do our part.