Celebrity deaths part of a dis­turb­ing trend

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD -

The deaths of celebrity chef An­thony Bour­dain and fash­ion de­signer Kate Spade high­light a trou­bling trend – ris­ing sui­cides among mid­dle-aged Amer­i­cans.

Men­tal health prob­lems, of­ten un­di­ag­nosed, are usu­ally in­volved, and ex­perts say know­ing the warn­ing signs and who is at risk can help stop a cri­sis from be­com­ing a tragedy.

Bour­dain, 61, and Spade, 55, died three days and a con­ti­nent apart this week, co­in­cid­ing with the re­lease of a new United States re­port show­ing an uptick in sui­cide rates in nearly ev­ery state since 1999. Mid­dle-aged adults – aged 45 to 64 – had the largest rate in­crease, ac­cord­ing to the re­port from the Cen­tres for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have sug­gested that eco­nomic down­turns and the na­tion’s opi­oid cri­sis have con­trib­uted to the rise in mid­dle-aged sui­cides.

Dr Chris­tine Moutier, a psy­chi­a­trist and chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer for the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion, said it was im­por­tant for ev­ery­one to know the warn­ing signs of sui­cide and to in­ter­vene when fam­ily mem­bers, friends or co- work­ers ap­peared trou­bled.

This week’s re­port found that many sui­cides in­volved peo­ple with no known men­tal ill­ness. But Dr Joshua Gor­don, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Men­tal Health, says this con­tra­dicts years of data, sug­gest­ing many cases have gone un­di­ag­nosed and un­treated. ‘‘It’s very trou­bling.’’

Gor­don said doc­tors needed to ask pa­tients at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity about their men­tal health, and eval­u­ate their risk for sui­cide.

Moutier said celebrity sui­cides typ­i­cally prompted an in­crease in calls to sui­cide helplines.

Spade’s long­time friend Elyce Arons told The New York Times that when the sub­ject of celebrity sui­cides came up in their dis­cus­sions about Spade’s de­pres­sion, her friend as­sured her that ‘‘ ‘I would never do that’ . . . And I be­lieved her’’.

Where to get help

Life­line (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354 De­pres­sion Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

Gam­bling Helpline – 0800 654 655 Health­line (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

Sa­mar­i­tans (open 24/7) –

0800 726 666

Sui­cide Cri­sis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a ser­vice for peo­ple who may be think­ing about sui­cide, or those who are con­cerned about fam­ily or friends.

Youth­line (open 24/7) – 08003˜766˜33. You can also text 234 for free be­tween 8am and mid­night, or email talk@youth­line. co.nz.


The deaths of fash­ion de­signer Kate Spade, 55, and chef An­thony Bour­dain, 61, co­in­cide with the re­lease of a re­port that found a rise in sui­cide rates in nearly ev­ery US state, with adults aged 45 to 64 hav­ing the largest in­crease.

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