Recently, the American public was left reeling from the tragic deaths of two American cultural icons Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Both of them reportedly committed suicide. Sadly, this shocking and preventable death is something that many people can relate to – most of us know someone who has been touched by suicide.
Anthony Bourdain was a TV chef and self-proclaimed ‘culinary bad boy’ who was in the middle of filming a follow-up to his award-winning culinary travel guide, Parts Unknown. He touched the lives of many with his no-holds-barred approach to food journalism. The former President, Barack Obama, who shared a meal with him in Vietnam on camera, tweeted:
“‘Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer.’ This is how I’ll remember Tony. He taught us about food – but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him.”
Kate Spade was a fashion journalist turned designer who, together with her husband, came up with an extraordinarily successful brand. Starting out with a pared-back handbag in the mid-90s, the brand became a huge success and expanded to clothes, accessories, and homewares.
Outward Appearances Can be Deceiving
On the face of it, both Bourdain and Spade were ultra-successful, confident, creative people with all the trappings of wealth and glamour. In reality, they were suffering an intense private battle with depression and mental ill-health. Kate’s husband Andy Spade told the news channel, CNN:
“Kate suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives…”
Death by suicide is on the increase – in America, the rate went up by 25% since 1999. In the UK, the latest figures released by the Samaritans show that in England and the UK, female suicide rates, in particular, are at their highest in a decade. However, men remain three times more likely to take their own lives than women.
Success, fame and wealth are no barrier to unhappiness.
Suicide is Preventable
“Suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide.” So says the International Association for Suicide Prevention.
This sequence of events is usually accompanied by physical symptoms and an intense loneliness and isolation as the sufferer struggles to carry on with their normal life. For those suffering from mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, there is usually a long battle before succumbing to the final solution.
As Rob Delaney, actor and comedian, put it: “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
Those that are in the grip of the disease find it hard to believe that things will get better. The best-selling author and self-confessed sufferer of depression, Matt Haig, writes in his book, ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ that if he had some advice for his former self it would be that:
“Nothing lasts forever. This pain won’t last. The pain tells you it will last. Pain lies. Ignore it.”
The Yoga World
The yoga world is no different to the wider world. Despite the mental health benefits that come from a committed yoga practice, there are no guarantees. In July last year, Michael Stone, a Buddhist and renowned yoga teacher, died of a drug overdose. His family issued a statement saying that he “feared the stigma of his diagnosis … [but] he was on the cusp of revealing publicly how shaped he was by bipolar disorder and how he was doing.”
In fact, there may even be more stigma surrounding mental health in yogic circles than in other walks of life. It can be seen as a failure to fully reap the benefits of yoga. In reality, mental health issues are diseases just like any others. There are no magical cures, but there are ways to manage those diseases, and those ways will be different for each individual.
For those yoga teachers that suffer from the pain of mental health, there is a silver lining that comes with it – compassion. As B.K.S. Iyengar says:
“When you have known pain, you will be compassionate.”
The fact is that talking saves lives. You don’t know what people are going through in their lives. If you suspect that someone you know is contemplating suicide, always take it seriously. The Samaritans suggest that you ‘offer support and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling.’
This simple act of reaching out to someone in need might just save their life. Why not scroll through your contacts today and think about the people in your life?
For more about the tragic deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, read here.
If you or anyone you know are struggling to cope, call the Samaritans (UK) any time on 116 123.