We Need to Talk About ALL Deaths by Suicide—Not Just When Celebrities Die by Suicide

I am saddened by the two celebrities, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, that died by suicide last week. However, I am glad it has increased the discussion about mental illness and suicide. I wish people would discuss the severe epidemic of mental illness and suicide before celebrity suicides occurred, but at any rate we are talking about it finally.

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After listening to people speak about mental illness on the news and other places, I have come to the realization that most people do not have a clue what mental illness is. Too many people have said that these two people who died by suicide had everything going for them and had everything to live for and yet they were not happy.  These comments make me think that people really don’t get it.

Mental illness is not a choice. Mental illness is not a character flaw. Mental illness is not always determined by life’s circumstances. Mental illness is not caused from negative self-talk. Mental illness is a brain disease. Trauma can increase the likelihood that you may develop a chronic depression, PTSD or other mental illness but it is not an absolute determining factor. Everyone is different.

Mental illness is not determined by the kind of life you live or what you look like or how much money you have or don’t have. So, why are so many people surprised that these two celebrities had sorrow, pain, heartache, mental illness, depression and died by suicide? There are no “looks” that people with mental illness have or people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts have.

What do people think mental illness and people who die by suicide look like? Do people think that people who have suicidal ideations look and act differently—like someone or something in a horror movie? What are they expecting to see? There is no look.

I guarantee you that most people who are suicidal are going to hide that from you. Having suicidal thoughts is not something you freely share with others. You don’t want others to know. Stigma prevents that and inhibits our ability to do that.

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The suicide hotline numbers are very important and crucial to display and post everywhere, but people need to know that is not enough. We must be honest that many people who have severe mental illness symptoms and are suicidal are very ill at that time and are incapable of making a decision to pick up the telephone to call the number or ask for the help they need to survive.

When people are suicidal their brains are usually lying to them for many different reasons. Suicidal thoughts can be triggered from PTSD, medication side effects, severe depression, an elated mania, a psychotic state, they hear voices and many other reasons. There are many contributing reasons why a person becomes suicidal.

The huge problem is people who are suicidal believe the lies their brain is telling them. The perceptions about their life becomes misconstrued. Their perceptions of reality are blurred. Sometimes they may have reached an elated mania or a psychosis which means they are not themselves and are not in their own reality. Their brains are telling them lies that become their truth and the only reality they know.

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You cannot see brain disease. Just because their reality becomes abnormal does not mean their appearance and mannerisms will change. They can change but sometimes the changes are very slight. You need to pay close attention and do not ever assume there will be obvious signs you can see or should have seen them.

Sometimes people who are suicidal plan ahead of time when they will end their lives. They will not tell you and they will not show signs because they want to hide it from you. Sometimes they have suicidal thoughts off and on for years. Sometimes they have suicidal thoughts that they thought they could fight and they have for a long time but one day they lose the battle. The suicidal thoughts became too strong and overtake their mind and desire to live anymore. Sometimes they have an elated mania and are happy before they decide to end their lives. They may hear voices or think God is telling them it is time and this brings them happiness.

That is what happened to me before my last suicide attempt. I had been fighting severe suicidal thoughts for months. Often a person, especially in a manic state, refuses to believe and accept how sick they are. They think they can keep fighting whatever is happening to them. Before my last suicide attempt I had an elated mania episode and felt very happy. God told me it was time and I was ready. After I survived my suicide attempt and remembered the moment I took my handfuls of pills the reality of that moment is very scary because there was a powerful force that was out of my control. It overpowered me. Too many people say it is a choice but for me it was not.

People need to stop saying suicide is a choice because sometimes it is not a choice. The mental illness can overtake the person’s mind at the time and there is no reality to stay in because they lost their own reality. You can’t see this shift in reality or severe suicidal thoughts that are occurring inside a suicidal person’s mind.

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Suicide is very scary, but people need to know the realities and the truth. Sometimes there is no mind over matter. There is no more mind that matters. I want people to be aware of the many possibilities in the mind of someone before a suicide attempt. I know it is depressing and hard to hear, but it’s a very hard truth people must speak about and people need to listen to. It is imperative if we want to save lives and end the increasing suicide epidemic all over the world. People need to listen and know the painful truths surrounding it. It is time to end stigma and it is time to stop suicide.

Another untruth I want people to stop thinking and saying about suicide is that suicide is a selfish act. That is hogwash and the ignorance annoys me. Most people I know that have died by suicide or are suicide attempt survivors thought people would be better off without them. They are being selfless not selfish. They wholeheartedly believe people would be happy that they were gone. They think people would be better off without them. They feel like they are and have been a burden to others. They think they are helping loved ones and the world by ending their own lives. So please stop saying suicide is a SELFISH act. When you say things like that it is stigma and it hurts and negatively impacts the families of people who died by suicide and suicide attempt survivors.

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According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,965 Americans die by suicide every year. For every suicide, there 25 suicide attempts. On average, there are 123 suicides per day in the United States. There are more deaths by suicide than car accident deaths per year. These statistics are from data from 2016 and the suicide rates are increasing at alarming rates today. According to the World Health Organization—WHO, it is estimated that one million people die from suicide a year. This is an epidemic that needs immediate attention.

People do not seem to pay attention to the alarmingly increasing rate of suicide until a celebrity dies by suicide or mentions they have a mental illness. Something is grotesquely wrong with that picture. Please pay attention to everyone. No one is immune to mental illness or suicide. Please listen, look, see, read, inform, talk about it, help others and love others. This is an emergency. Stop the stigma. It will save lives.

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Please stop telling people to “just get over it” and “don’t be so emotional.” We need to be emotional. We need to stop hiding our emotions and pretending we are okay when we aren’t. Hiding our feelings and who we really are is hurting people. Stigma prevents people from seeking help and getting the help they need to live good lives. Stigma kills. Stop stigma and prevent suicide. Do not wait for another celebrity to die by suicide. Help everyone now.

Everyone who has a mental illness and everyone in the world needs to have people support them, care for them and be their eyes for them. People need to look out for each other, but especially people with depression and other mental illness. I say look out for everyone because some people have mental illness but have not been diagnosed yet. They may be in denial or afraid to tell people the truth about their feelings and pain. Unfortunately, stigma puts up a wall between people’s ability to seek help.

Tear down that stigma wall one brick at a time. Start yesterday.

~Written by Susan Walz

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