In Response to Recent Celebrity Suicides

Ypsilanti, Daniel

I don’t have a Kate Spade bag, and I wasn’t a regular viewer of Anthony Bourdain. But at the end of this tragic week of celebrity suicides, I still find myself hurting for Spade and Bourdain’s invisible pain, and for the terrible agony their families and friends must now endure.

At least from a distance, these deaths appear as confusing as they are tragic. How could two people who “had it all”–fame, wealth, success, adoring fans, and access to the best mental health care available–reach a point where suicide felt like the only solution to their suffering?

Unfortunately, fame, wealth, and fear of public exposure can be powerful barriers (among many others) to acknowledging that we are hurting. If you are reading this, and you are struggling to stay alive, please know that a simple, genuine connection to another person who hears your pain and accepts you as you are–even a stranger on a suicide hotline or a counselor you see for the first time–can be a bridge back to a life worth living.

Unfortunately, we often talk about suicide only when someone has died by suicide. We speak less about and with the people around us who may be considering suicide. We rarely acknowledge when we ourselves have recovered from a period of life in which suicide seemed like an option (I did), or dialogue openly with folks who have survived a suicide attempt (some of the finest people I know). All of these people are among us. They are our families, friends, neighbors, peers, and colleagues. They could be you or me.

Sometimes the hardest thing is just staying alive, just waiting it out until a livable option appears. Waiting in unbearable pain is excruciating. But waiting alone is even harder, and I believe that we are not meant to do life’s hardest things alone. So please reach out if you need support.

UF students can call the Counseling and Wellness Center 24/7 (352-392-1575) and speak to a counselor. CWC also has a listing of resources and information about suicide at counseling.ufl.edu/suicide.

Anyone can always call the Alachua County Crisis Center (352-264-6789) to talk to a compassionate, understanding person about suicide. There’s also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Online you can find portraits of real people who have pulled themselves back from the brink of death by suicide at www.livethroughthis.org.


Author:  Dr. Sara Nash, PhD, LMHC, clinical assistant professor, CERC assistant coordinator and co-coordinator of the peer support program at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center