Associations Speak Up on the Complex Nature of Suicide

The deaths of two prominent celebrities this week—designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain—highlight the complex nature of suicide, a trend that the CDC reports is on the rise. Associations are responding to the issue.

The recent news cycle, which has seen two celebrities in the past week die of reported suicides, is leading associations to speak up and offer resources to the public on a challenging, often difficult-to-process issue.

On Tuesday, fashion designer Kate Spade lost her life in New York, and on Friday morning, Anthony Bourdain’s employer CNN announced that the celebrity chef and award-winning TV host had died while on location in France filming an episode of his popular show Parts Unknown. These two figures had each seen significant success in their lives, bucking a common perception of suicide.

This public perception, and the deeper complexity tied to it, was touched upon directly in a news release from the American Association of Suicidology that honored Bourdain.

“There is no single cause for a death by suicide, but rather a confluence of factors that lead someone to exceed their capacity for emotional pain,” the release stated.

The association’s president, Julie Cerel, added that suicide rates were disproportionate among middle-aged men.

“Suicide affects us all,” Cerel said in the release. “Each person who dies by suicide leaves behind so many loved ones with the question of, ‘Why?’ We need significant funding for research to help answer this question.”

The high-profile deaths come as a major piece of research discusses the rising rate of suicide over a 17-year period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just one state, Nevada, saw a decline in suicide rates between 1999 and 2016, though even that state had rates above the national average.

“The data are disturbing,” Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, said in comments to The Washington Post. “The widespread nature of the increase, in every state but one, really suggests that this is a national problem hitting most communities.”

In comments regarding the CDC data, the American Psychiatric Association said that the report shows the necessity of improving access to mental healthcare.

“We know from other research that most people who die by suicide have mental health conditions, though they may not have been formally diagnosed or treated,” APA President Altha Stewart stated in a news release. “People should know that suicide is preventable. Anyone contemplating suicide should know that help is available, and that there is no shame in seeking care for your mental health.”

APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin added that the situation highlighted the need for enforcement of recently passed laws related to mental health.

“Early identification of mental illness is essential, and we are ready to work with Congress and other stakeholders to ensure that Americans can receive treatment when needed,” Levin said in the release.

From left, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. (via Frances Valentine; Anna Hanks/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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