“The pattern of highly accomplished and successful people committing suicide is transfixing. It assures the rest of us that a life of accolades is not all that it’s cracked up to be and that achieving more will not make us happier. At the same time, it reveals the fact that no one is safe from suicide, that whatever defenses we think we have are likely to be inadequate. Kate Spade’s handbags were playful and fun. Her quirky look was unmistakable and bespoke exuberance. Anthony Bourdain was almost inconceivably high-functioning, and won so many awards that he seemed ready to give an award to his favorite award. High-profile suicides such as these cause copycat suicides; there was a nearly ten-per-cent spike in suicides following Robin Williams’s death. There is always an upswing following such high-profile events. You who are reading this are at statistically increased risk of suicide right now. Who knows if Bourdain had read of Kate Spade’s suicide as he prepared to do the same thing? We are all statistically more likely to kill ourselves than we were ten years ago. That increased vulnerability is itself depressing, and that depressing information interacts with our own unguarded selves. If life wasn’t worth living for people such as Bourdain and Spade, how can our more ordinary lives hold up? Those of us who have clinical depression can feel the tug toward suicide amped up by this kind of news. The gap between public triumph and private despair is treacherous, with the outer shell obscuring the real person even to those with whom he or she had professed intimacy.
There has long been an assertion popular in mental-health circles that suicide is a symptom of depression and that, if we would only treat depression adequately, suicide would be a thing largely of the past. We learn of Kate Spade’s possible marital woes as though marital woes rationalized a suicide. It is true that, in someone with a significant tendency to suicide, external factors may trigger the act itself, but difficult circumstances do not usually fully explain someone’s choice to terminate his or her own life. People must have an intrinsic vulnerability; for every person who kills himself when he is left by his wife, there are hundreds who don’t kill themselves under like circumstances.”
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