This past week, news outlets and media rocked the nation when they announced suicides from two prominent folks in the fashion and culinary industry.
Across social media, outpourings of shock, concern and cries for people to check in on their loved ones were posted one right after the other. Hashtags galore instructing people to acknowledge mental health and suicide. And while I was glad to see the conversation was happening; I found myself in wonderment as to why it has to take the death of a celebrity to get this conversation going.
I realize I’m treading in dangerous territory here by posing this question. I know many will say “Just be glad it’s happening!” but how can I truly be happy that the deaths of two people famous or otherwise have to happen in order to trigger these important conversations?
And while the contributing factors to suicide are not always mental health; we can’t sit here and pretend as if it is not a major contributing factor.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.,20 the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–1421 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.22
- More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.23
- Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.24
And let’s get into the statistics of mental health period!
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.1
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.2
- Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3
- 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.4
- 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.5
- 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.6
- 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.7
- Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.8
Every day millions of people in the U.S alone are dealing with some type of mental illness. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S when it goes untreated! So why do we seem blissfully unaware until a celebrity dies by suicide?
Is it because they’re rich? Famous? Seemingly happy because they’re smiling in photos? Why is it that the idea that anyone of status and wealth could possibly take their own life is worthy of starting the conversation as opposed to the literal facts and statistics?
Mental health is not the boogie man hiding under the bed or in the closet. It is not a “white people’s” disease. It is not a thing to be prayed away. It is not a socially and economically selective illness. It is an illness as real as cancer, or AIDs or Lupus. It can strike any person, any age, any gender and anywhere.
These conversations need to be happening regularly on a large scale but more importantly on a more intimate scale; like at home! Have these talks with your children, your mate, your parents, your friends and loved ones. HAVE THE CONVERSATION. Don’t be afraid to ask what a person is feeling because you’re fearful that you may learn something a little bit too deep.
Know your local resources, and where to get help should you or a loved one need it. If you see someone on social media acting out, send them some information because you never know what life you could save doing that!
And most importantly, when the shock and the sensationalism of celebrity suicides wear off to make way for something new in media to debut; KEEP HAVING THE CONVERSATION.
Mental health and suicide are more than hashtags, more than trending topics; they are real issues worthy of more than a few reposts and retweets.
If you or anyone you know is possibly struggling with a mental health illness or crisis please contact:
Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)