The very public deaths by suicide of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain is proof yet again that mental illness, like any other disease, has no economic boundaries. It does not discriminate.

While Spade’s family said her suicide was not unexpected, the initial response regarding Bourdain was less candid. Regardless of the tragic circumstances in both these instances, what we do know is that people should never feel too embarrassed or uncomfortable to openly say they need help. And we are reminded yet again that mental illness — and its associated stigma — must be addressed through ongoing education, advocacy and policy.

In spite of federal behavioral health parity laws for example, most insurance carriers provide little or no long-term residential benefits or reimbursement, which makes finding life-saving mental health treatment very difficult. For those carriers that do, it is oftentimes a short-term crisis stabilization stay where benefits are terminated as soon as the person is no longer deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Although Spade and Bourdain didn’t likely face many of the barriers that are oftentimes present to most who receive treatment for mental illness, their deaths are still a reminder that we can and must do better. Usually there are signs exhibited by the troubled person that indicate they could be contemplating suicide. 

And for all of us, it is crucial to understand the signs of someone in a mental health crisis, including:

  • A sudden change in behavior, especially one associated with a sudden tragic event
  • Talks about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Having extreme energy or little energy
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Feeling isolated or withdrawn
  • Feeling hopeless or without purpose
  • Feeling trapped or being in constant pain
  • Feeling as if a burden to others
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
  • Making a plan or talking about a plan on how to die
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless

If someone you know, or yourself, needs help, please call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255, for guidance on next steps.  If you are an individual who personally needs immediate help, please visit your nearest hospital emergency room. Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

Daniel J. Kelly, chairman & founder

Rose Hill Center, Holly

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