Celebrity deaths part of a disturbing trend
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.