By: Jessica Plouffe
On June 5th, the news broke that the fashion icon Kate Spade had died of suicide. Just three days later, on June 8th, Anthony Bourdain, the host of the well-known CNN show Parts Unknown, was also dead. Suddenly, suicide is a trending topic. CNN has done a great service by releasing an advertisement related to suicide prevention, which provides the national suicide hotline number at the end of the ad; hopefully, the ad will continue to play and more networks will follow suit. But, at the end of the day, we have lost two cultural icons – and it is only now that the public has become aware that suicide rates have been increasing in recent years – by about 25. Still perhaps largely understood by the public is that not all suicidal people are depressed, and that depression does not always cause suicidal ideation. Further, though depression has the largest link with suicide out of the mental health disorders, having any mental health disorder increases the risk of suicide
While it is unknown if the copycat effect was a contributing factor in Bourdain’s death, given the timing and the fact that both Spade and Bourdain died in the same manner, it is possible. With any type of crime, from suicide to mass murder, there is an increased risk of similar events occurring in the near future. Since suicide is, obviously, deadly, this is of extreme concern. News outlets must take care in properly covering the deaths, to ensure that depressed individuals, especially those who are already contemplating suicide, are empowered to seek help, rather than more convinced that the answer is to take their own lives. People view celebrities as models, so naturally the copycat effect would be stronger when it is a celebrity involved. On the other hand, celebrities can be of great service when they serve as a role model for these situations. Logic’s recent hit song, for example, has also helped to increase the number of calls to suicide hotlines.
It is distressing, in a way, that it took the deaths of two celebrities for our society to begin to take a hard look at the causes of suicide, and the actions necessary to prevent more deaths. While people are currently publicly mourning the celebrities who recently passed, the three main groups in which suicide is of the most concern – veterans, teenagers (especially girls), and older men – remain largely in the background. While the fact that we are now talking about suicide is great progress, there is still substantial stigma that must be dismantled before we see the suicide rates dramatically decreasing; if a person experiences stigma, he or she is much less likely to seek helpThis is perhaps more severe for suicidal ideation than for other mental health disorders because not only do suicidal individuals fear the reactions from others, but they often also fear being hospitalized against their will If there is a positive aspect of the current circumstances, it is that there has been a substantial increase in calls to suicide hotlines in the past couple of weeks, which suggests that people are feeling less stigmatized. Hopefully, as time passes from these two shocking deaths, suicide will still of great public attention and concern, and people will feel more comfortable both talking about mental health and taking the steps to get help.
If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, please seek help! Similarly, if you know someone who is depressed or suicidal, please encourage them to seek help, and reach out to them regularly! The following list is of emergency services for suicidal individuals; it is also important to connect with a local therapist for long-term assistance.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Hotline Website:
Crisis Textline: Text CONNECT to 714714
Danbury Hospital Crisis Line: 1-888-447-3339; 24 Hospital Ave., Danbury CT
For residents of Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield, Roxbury, and Sherman.
Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Unit, Newtown area: 1-866-543-2774
For Non-Emergency Situations:
Your local therapist or community health centers can assist with non-emergency care for depressed and suicidal individuals. If you do not have a therapist and need help finding one, contact:
Newtown Center for Support and Wellness: 203-270-4612; 28 Trades Lane, Newtown CT
Nock, M. K. (2016). Recent and needed advances in the understanding, prediction, and
prevention of suicidal behavior. Depression and Anxiety, 33(6), 460-463.
Wu, I. C., Bathje, G. J., Kalibatseva, Z., Sung, D., Leong, F. L., & Collins-Eaglin, J. (2017).
Stigma, mental health, and counseling service use: A person-centered approach to mental
health stigma profiles. Psychological Services, 14(4), 490-501.
About the Author: Jessica is a Senior at Western Connecticut State University studying Psychology as part of the Kathwari Honors Program. She is a Research Assistant at WCSU’s Cognition lab and President of the same university’s Psi Chi Chapter and a member of the Psychology Student Association.