Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain shocked the world by taking their own lives. Even though we didn’t know them, their deaths felt very personal to many of us. Fans were left asking, why? What caused them to commit suicide? Is depression becoming an epidemic? Is suicide on the rise?
Suicide rates have increased by 25% in the last two decades ending in 2016, According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
Although suicide is one of the top four causes of death among people in the age groups between 10 and 44, the numbers of suicide deaths are higher in the age groups in the 45 to 65+ range, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
While we don’t know why these rates are increasing, we can make some inferences from the known suicide risk factors in middle-age adults, which had the highest increase.
“One risk factor for suicide is big life stressors, something we see most often in the middle of our lives,” Jenys Allende, MD a psychiatrist in Philadelphia, said in an email interview.
“This is the period where we are most likely to juggle the complications of aging family members or come face to face with the outcomes of financial risks you took that didn’t pay off. You may go through a divorce or be raising children – a monumental task in its own right – but what if those children become ill?”
People in this age range have children, taking care of elderly parents, juggling work and home life. They don’t seem to take tie for self-care, which means they aren’t seeking help for any mental health issues.
“These are the most productive years of our life, but the flipside of that productivity is the burden of others depending on us.”
As for Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, they were both incredibly successful and seemingly living their best lives. However, they both likely had high expectations and pressures to sustain their level of success. They were also within the middle-age group.
“They had known histories of mental health and substance abuse issues, two of the most important risk factors for suicide,” Allende says. “And they had to keep up appearances to protect and nourish their personal brands, their companies, and the people they loved.”
“When we add all these factors up, one possible result is a lonely place where it is hard to reach out for help.”
Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.
How to get help:
In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
In Canada, call toll-free 1-833-456-4566, text: 45645 or chat at crisisservicescanada.ca