Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain Suicides Trigger a Focus on Personal Struggles With Depression

The first full week of June 2018 was a heavy one. Not only did we lose fashion designer Kate Spade, but a few days later, we lost one of society’s most notable and most loved celebrity chefs, Anthony Bourdain. It wasn’t until I read the news of each that I actually felt a panic of my own — both deaths were suicides.

I immediately looked over at my bright pink Kate Spade purse and thought about how much I loved it, and how excited I was when it was on sale at Nordstrom. Designer brands are always a splurge. It was a reward, a reminder that I deserved this luxury item because I worked hard for it.

I’ve had this hot pink satchel for some years now, and actually rotate it in each season whenever summer is near. The bag is a reminder of the good times, the bad times, and all the memories in between. This is the impact Kate Spade had on people. Not even from a consumer standpoint, but personally and emotionally. I can only imagine the moments shared unwrapping gifts underneath the Christmas tree, and the joy in women’s faces as they plot when to debut their brand new Kate Spade wallet.

I read she hanged herself with a scarf on a doorknob. I lost it. The tears just came. She left behind a daughter and a divorced husband, whom she blames for her misery. The words “Ask daddy” ended the note. Money does not buy happiness.

It’s real-life connections that matter most — something I still struggle to grasp in the midst of my own struggle with mental health. At work, we frequently sit there and ponder, “What are we working so hard for? For what? What’s the point of life?” For me, being bipolar means going through the highest of highs and lowest of lows. These tragedies made me contemplate my own struggles with suicidal thoughts and depression. Was this the answer? Was this a cop out? Is there an answer?

I thought back to days at Power 106 (KPWR-FM) when Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” played often. Logic sought to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.The song itself is almost a cry out for help.

A 2018 study by the state Department of Health observed the rise in calls received at New Jersey’s suicide hotline since its launch in 2013. With more than 26,600 total incoming calls in 2016, more than 35,600 in 2017, and nearly 18,200 so far this year, it was no surprise when a sudden influx of calls came in following the deaths of Spade and Bourdain. But not everybody wants to talk to a stranger.

I frequently smoke or use cannabis to ease my anxiety in situations like this. Marijuana helps calms me down and distracts me from the realities of everyday life and the struggles we all go through. Finding out Anthony Bourdain hanged himself a few days after Kate Spade in New York triggered this soft spot in my heart that I used to feel working both through addiction and in treatment centers helping others with addiction.

For years, there has been speculation that legalization of medical marijuana was found to correlate directly with a significant drop in suicide rates, indicating that the federally outlawed substance may have a positive effect on public health in the United States. In 2014, a study by the American Journal of Public Health showed the suicide rate among men in their 20s and 30s dropped 10.8 percent and 9.8 percent respectively, following the legalization of medical marijuana in any given state.

While these stats are promising, there is still the reality that some people are cursed with mental illness, while others are blessed without it, and everyone is still trying to figure out what to do about it.

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