What Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Me, And 45 Million Americans Have In Common

I’ve been having a hard time putting into words how I feel about Kate Spade’s passing.

She was found dead in her Park Avenue apartment. Death by suicide.

All over the internet, people said they didn’t know she had mental illness.

I’m sure you had no idea she had depression.  I had no idea this amazingly talented and creative woman suffered from depression. I know her brand story, who her husband was, how her business started, but I didn’t know she had depression.

Why is it any of my business or yours to know?

For some reason, it’s not okay to talk about the mind and the chemicals and hormones it releases and controls and the messages it relays, but it’s okay to talk about cancer or lupus or a kidney transplant.

Mental illness is not a character flaw, it’s an ILLNESS. Suicide is not a selfish act, or a sin—it’s dying from a disease of the mind, instead of the body.

In the time between Kate Spade’s death and me sitting down to write this post, another one of my heroes took their own life: Anthony Bourdain. Anthony was more vocal about his struggles with depression and drug use, but it still came as a complete shock to everyone that he ended his own life.

If someone were to die at the age of 55 or 61 after a lifelong battle with cancer, we’d all say they were a “fighter” or an “inspiration.”

But when someone dies after a lifelong battle with severe mental illness and drug addiction, we say it was a tragedy and tell everyone, “Please seek help, call this suicide hotline.”

Sorry, but that’s bullshit.

Anthony Bourdain sought help his entire life. He saw a therapist and spoke openly about it. He quit heroin and cocaine. He went to rehab. He did this for decades. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

By the time a person has reached the point of having suicidal thoughts, their brain chemistry is so horribly unbalanced that they can’t think logically, and they just want it all to stop.

Whenever there is a suicide, we post messages saying, “Reach out if you need help. I’m here for you.”

It’s so important to be willing to help and to have compassion. It’s important to remind people that there is support out there.

But in some ways it’s not enough.

Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and other mental illnesses feed your mind the wrong messages. Mental illness changes the way you think.

Mental illness tells you that you’re going to screw up. It tells you that you aren’t good at anything. It tells you to be afraid of things you know you shouldn’t be afraid of. It tells you that things won’t get better. It tells you that everyone is out to get you, that everyone is looking at you, that everyone is judging you. Constantly.

Anxiety, for example, causes a wide range of physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, panic, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle spasms. Anxiety also causes a very long list of sometimes debilitating symptoms: thought, cognitive, emotional, and mood-based (read more here).

Depression tricks you into feeling isolated. Alone, even in a crowded room. Even with people that know you and love you.

Depression tricks you into feeling weak. It tricks you into believing that you are failing because you can’t simply shake things off like others can. You look at others who appear to be managing their struggles so effortlessly and wonder why you are so incompetent and don’t even have enough energy to take shower. It makes you feel overwhelming tired; like a simple trip to the grocery store is akin to a full day at Disneyland.

Mental illness makes your mind wage war against you. It changes how you think and how you process information.

When you’re battling something like severe anxiety or depression, simply getting out of bed takes every amount of strength that you have—the thought of reaching out to someone for help feels really hard. It feels impossible. Calling someone? No. Calling a suicide hotline? Maybe not.

Everything is hard when you’re battling a mental illness. There are millions of reasons why, but I’ll start with judgment.

It’s deeply ingrained in our society and our lexicon. People judge those with mental illness. Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious but sometimes it’s latent aggressions like using terminology such as, “bitch be crazy“.

Yet would you judge someone with cancer? Heart disease? Immune disorders? A tumor?

Would you tell them to just “get over it?”

Would you tell someone with a broken leg to just “get outside and get some exercise”?

“Come on, just get over your cancer. Maybe if you don’t think about it, it’ll go away.”

Don’t you think someone suffering from mental ILLNESS would just think it away if they could?!

No wonder no one wants to speak up when they’re having a hard time.

No one wants to be “crazy”.  No one wants to lock themselves in their house because they’re afraid to go outside. No one really wants to distance themselves from everyone they know.  No one really wants to not wash their hair for weeks on end or talk to themselves in public or yell at something that isn’t there. But mental illness wants them to.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 45 million Americans are suffering from a mental illness—and those are only the diagnosed cases.

The National Institute Of Mental Health (NIMH) breaks down mental illness into two categories: any mental illness and serious mental Illness. Any mental illness is defined as any mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder and can vary in impact, ranging from mild, moderate, and even severe. Serious mental illness is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.

It’s important to note that not everyone’s mental illness is the same. Just because one person acts a certain way with Bipolar Disorder, doesn’t mean that every person with a Bipolar diagnosis will act that way. Anxiety and depression present themselves in many different forms.

If you have been following along with me on Instagram or Instagram Stories or Facebook or my blog, you know I am very open about my own struggles with anxiety, PTSD, depression and fibromyalgia. Every single day is a fight.

A lot of people have told me that I could control it just by “being positive”, “shifting my mindset”, or my favorite, “have you tried essential oils?”.

First of all, no. There is a physical chemical imbalance in my brain. My brain is malfunctioning. The most common anxiety symptoms are those directly caused by the fight or flight system – the system in the brain that is responsible for keeping you safe from harm. Yeah, mine is broken.  I can’t just “think positive” my way out of that. It’s as real as diabetes, cancer, or anything else that seems more “physical”.

Depression is an ILLNESS. It is not a condition that can be “cured” by being brushed off with a “try to be happy” or “you have so much to be happy about.”

Anxiety is an ILLNESS. It is not a condition that can be “cured” by being brushed off with a “just don’t be afraid of that” or “get over it” or “just don’t think about it”.

Until the stigma is removed from mental illness, those suffering from these illnesses will continue to hide their condition.

Until society truly, authentically accepts it as an illness, mental illness will continue to swallow people whole.

In some cases, people will self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. In some cases, people end up homeless. In some cases, people end up committing crimes they didn’t mean to commit. In some cases, people end up killing other people. In some cases, people end up dead.

I’ve been in and out of therapy for Persistent Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder since I was an adolescent. I thought everyone thought about killing themselves until I was 9. I was fortunate enough to have access to mental health care through my Dad’s work at UC Berkeley to be covered by Kaiser Permanente.

But then I got older, and health care in the US changed.

For a long time, as an adult, I didn’t know I needed help.

I’m sorry I flaked in our coffee date, again.
It’s not you, it’s my severe anxiety. I couldn’t leave my house today.

I was in a lot of pain, both mentally and physically. I was having panic attacks. I didn’t want to leave my house. Scared all the time (of nothing). Sleeping all the time. Unable to focus. Battling with episodes of dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization. Feeling overwhelmed even with the smallest tasks like laundry, washing my hair, or taking my dog on a walk. When my family realized what was going on with me, they encouraged me to call my doctor.

But it wasn’t that easy.

Major Depressive Disorder manifests itself in many forms: avoidance, no desire for social interaction, and isolation. Many days I don’t want to talk to anyone. When my husband gets home, I barely speak. When it’s really bad, I can’t pick up a phone to call anyone except my mom or my sister–and sometimes I can’t even do that.

I had the phone number on a post-it note, right on my laptop, staring at me in the face, but I still couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone.  I was terrified—I wanted to call but I just…. couldn’t. There was something stopping me; pulling me back from doing it. It took me a few weeks before I could break through my anxiety to call.

When I did finally call to ask my medical provider Kaiser Permanente in Washington for help, I cried on the phone telling Janet in the call center how miserable I’d been. I told her I hadn’t showered in days. I told her I’d been pulling out my hair. I told her I was exhausted all the time and couldn’t make it through the day without a nap. I told her I couldn’t focus and that I had stopped working. I told her couldn’t leave my house. I told her that I was having panic attacks both while I was awake and asleep. I told her I felt empty.

Janet asked if I had thoughts of killing myself.

Inside, I was screaming “Yes”, but the word “No” slid out of my mouth like a snake. I couldn’t tell a stranger that I had been having suicidal thoughts. I couldn’t say it. I didn’t know how to say it. I didn’t want to. I was ashamed. How did I get here?

A healthy brain doesn’t think about hurting itself; a sick brain does.

On the other end of the phone, Janet clicked a “No” button and told me it would be four weeks before the soonest appointment. Four weeks.

She apologized and said if I had urges to killing myself, I should call 911. Tears streamed down my face.

I waited four weeks to see a primary care doctor to get a referral for mental health. During my appointment, I had 15 minutes with a doctor I’d never met to confide in them that I couldn’t stand my reflection, couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, couldn’t focus, and didn’t want to leave my house.

How was I supposed to open up to someone I’ve never met about the deepest, darkest parts of me, when I don’t know how to assign words to the feelings I have? When I can’t see that my actions are clouded by a thick haze of gloom?

It would be six months from that first call before I got in with a LCSW, a licensed social worker, who I didn’t connect with. Six weeks for another appointment with another LCSW, who I also didn’t connect with. Without the help I needed, I started having more panic attacks.

I’m in treatment now for PTSD that went undiagnosed for many, many years. I’m working with a psychologist for talk therapy and a psychiatrist for medication to treat PTSD, Panic Disorder, Severe Anxiety Disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder.

But you don’t just go to one doctor for mental illness and get better. There isn’t just one treatment and you’re better.

Mental illness affects everyone differently. In some people, it’s a mild case. But in some people it’s severe.

Some people are able to overcome mental illness with medicine, some with talk therapy (especially cognitive behavioral therapy), some use a multitude of treatments like yoga, meditation, coloring, acupuncture, etc. For some people, like myself, it’s a lifelong battle, full of dozens of tools to manage.

I try to see my own mental illness somewhat akin to cancer, in that it requires a lot of different kinds of treatment to someday get it into remission.

Every single day of my life will be a battle. Every. Single. Day. I’m making progress to manage my mental illness, but sometimes I get worse. It’s a journey. Mental health is something that everyone needs to be concerned with for their entire lives (just like physical health).

Mental illness is not just something you can ignore. Mental illness is as real as the flu. As real as diabetes. As real as CANCER.

You can’t see mental illness, and that’s why we NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT.

There are millions of people all over the world that have a mental illness. Those people, like myself, like Kate Spade, are often MASTERS at hiding their illnesses so we can “pass” as normal. Pass as happy. Pass as not deeply troubled by internal demons that claw at our backs.

Depression is a monster.

Kate Spade was known for her playful designs and cheeky humor. By any measure, she appeared bubbly and full of life. Maybe she was telling herself to “live colorfully” as she battled mental illness behind closed doors.

She lost her battle.

Anthony Bourdain was known for his amazing humility, writing, television shows, and candid honesty about everything from tripe to heroin addiction.

He lost his battle.

These two amazing souls are a unique juxtaposition of mental illness: one surrounded herself with color and brightness, embellished handbags with things like “live colorfully”; the other was open about his struggles, his addiction, and his own self-deprecating sense of honesty.

This is an important lesson in facades. Remember that many of us wear masks. Sometimes your strongest friend has the darkest secrets. Sometimes the person who laughs the loudest is in the most pain. You can pretend to be anything you want—especially online—but that doesn’t make the illness go away.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

You can’t see mental illness, and that’s why we NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT.

It may not be easy to relate to, but I hope this will help you understand why it’s not enough to simply say “ask for help” or “here’s the suicide hotline number”.

Caring counts. Don’t just wonder what’s going on with someone or rely solely on their social media posts to see how they’re doing, talk to them. Connect with them.

Whenever you see someone who needs help, give them support, don’t sit back and wait for them to ask.

Because odds are, they never will, and if you ask them if they need help, they’ll likely say no. Just do things for them.

Here are a few things you can do to help your friends or acquaintances that may be suffering:

  • When you are on Facebook scrolling through your newsfeed and you see a post that could be a cry for attention, private message your friend and talk to them. Hell, just message your friends any time.
  • When your friend begins shutting themselves away from life, drag them back into the light. Invite yourself over. Call to say hi. Send them a text (bonus points if it’s a cute animal). Tell them you’re thinking of them.
  • If your co-worker seems to be barely making it through the day, do something kind that shows them you recognize their struggles. Like, sit with them at lunch or ask to go on a walk with them during a break.
  • Invite yourself over for dinner and bring the food.
  • Tell them you want to meet them for coffee and find a coffee shop near them, or bring them coffee. Often, people suffering from anxiety do not want to leave their homes or can only go to certain “safe” places that they feel comfortable at.
  • Arrange for food to be delivered. Arrange to have their house to be cleaned. Help them with their laundry. Remember, even simple tasks are very difficult when battling depression.
  • Have deep, meaningful conversations with your friends and loved ones. Check in with them regularly. Don’t just ask them how their day is. Keep talking to them. Talk about anything at all, even menial stuff. Try to make them laugh. Thank them for trusting you with their thoughts and words. Make them feel heard.
  • Don’t let them feel that they are alone, adrift in a world that won’t miss them when they’re gone.

On almost daily basis, people thank me for being open in DMs and comments. I am so grateful for them. They make me feel like I kind of finally have a purpose.

But, so many of the those people message me say that they, too, suffer from anxiety or depression or fibromyalgia or another invisible illness.

They thank me for being brave to speak about my struggles with mental illness.

Let’s be clear, this is not easy to talk about, because I’m scared of being judged for it. I’m scared of people pitying me or feeling sorry for me (I really don’t want that). I’m scared of not getting clients because they’re worried about my ability to complete work.

But I got to thinking… if all of you out there start talking about your battle with mental illness too… would that help? If we shout about pain and talk more about mental health… maybe there won’t be so much of a stigma?

If we talk about mental health from early on, it’s just another thing we focus on in our health. Like, the dentist, or a yearly checkup.

How many people have to feel so deeply alone that they take their own lives before we start to wake up to the fact that we must do something different?

It almost has become so common, like school shootings, that we see headlines for a day or so, send out thoughts and prayers, and then we get back to our lives and nothing changes.

We need to support each other.

We need to be honest when we’re having a bad day and not feel ashamed about it.

We need to understand each other if we need to flake on a coffee date because of anxiety.

We need to share our stories and share what helped us get through it.

We need to fucking talk about.

We need more mental health support.

We need more funding for more education for social workers, psychologists, and mental health professionals.

We need to be able to pay them fair wages.

We need access to those mental health professionals.

It shouldn’t be a six month wait to get an appointment when you think you’re suffering from depression or having panic attacks or feel like you’re losing your mind.

We have to talk about this.

At home. At school. At the dinner table. On television. Everywhere.

There should be no stigma about mental health—just awareness, compassion, and treatment.

Rest easy, Kate Spade. Thank you for sharing your colorful vision with us and inspiring us.

Thank you, Anthony Bourdain. Thank you for sharing decades of your life with us. You truly were a blessing. Rest easy, Anthony Bourdain.

Rest easy, every person who has taken their own life.

For all of those who are staring into the abyss and want to give up, don’t. Keep fighting. Find something that does bring you joy. Go to therapy.

Stay alive. We need you.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Like what you read? Want more from me?

Wow, this post reached so many more people than I thought it would. If you’re looking to follow me and read more of my writing, please follow this blog and like my page on Facebook.

Image details:
Model: Me! | Photo Credit: Budy Pratama for Terralogical

Author: Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

61 thoughts

  1. I’m hanging on by my fingertips to my sanity.my husband of less than 2yrs had an unexpected heart attack and died instantly 3.18.18
    He was my soulmate.my third lover and i his first.
    Somedays i feel like screaming but if i do i fear i will never stop so i clamp my lips firmly shut.
    My friends are supportive but feelmy pain and so do not get into conversations about him because i get so deeply upset and they feel bad upsetting me but i need to talk.


    1. I am so sorry for the tragic loss of your soulmate. Glad to hear you have supportive friends. You are right, you so do need to talk. Part of grieving is talking and telling your story, trying to make some sense of it all. Some people find support from organizations like the distress centres. I hope you will find somewhere to talk; be it by phone or in person. Take good care. xoxo


    2. this is ridiculous. it is a lie that either kate spade or anthony bourdain committed suicide or were mentally ill. kate spade was murdered by her husband for her money and he paid off the cops and coroner to get away with it. they love that gig cuz the money is great and the corrupt network was put in place when mick jagger had his girlfriend lwren scott murdered to get his condo back for his new younger girlfriend and to avoid a palimony suit. it is so obvious the motive for kate spades murder. that she was suicidal or mental ill is lie perpetrated by the murderer and his accomplices to deflect from his obvious motive in having her killed. and she is not here to say otherwise. this article is ridiculous. anthony bourdain died from auto erotic asphyxiation which is reported as a suicide to spare the family embarassment but it is an accidental death. there is zero history ever, not ever of a billionaire killing themselves. kate spade was murdered by her husband for her money and the misinformation about her ‘mental illness’ is a lie, easy cuz she can’t speak for herself anymore and the murderer will create a narative that supports his greedy crime against humanity.


  2. Hi Becca! Thank you for publishing this very valuable article on mental illness. My ex-husband was diagnosed with manic depressive disorder and as a battered wife i decided to ran away with my two kids aged 5 and 7 now 26 and 28 . My marriage was annuled after 10 yrs of court battle and although there was joint custody my two kids stayed with me. Since my children grew up accustomed with domestic violence,my son had his nervous breakdown at age 16 and you can expect at this tender age he battled with mental illness. I suffered gravely in silence and did a lot of research work just so my son can live a normal life. There was ups and downs,hospital admissions and erratic reporting and attending to his school, talking to his professors to explain my son’s predicament which practically did not stop me for supporting his life goals. We migrated to US where mental support systems are more available as against in our home country where mental illness is a stigma. In US i tried reaching out for institutions where my son can ask help and support from. As a solo parent/mother all I could ever think of is for my son to be part of a system where he can find his comfort zone because i am aware of the fact that as a grow old and weak i could not allow my son to be defenseless with no one even his family to take care of him.After persistently knocking at doors of concerned institutions and with my son diagnosed with bipolar disorder he was finally accepted to be a member of a private funded mental recreation center Fountain House who is responsible for giving him part time work earning him a meagre income. I am fully aware that the daily battle in coping with this illness is so unpredictable that is why i made it a point that a regular psychiatrist, therapist and a counsellor are available in case he does not feel well. Right now i am away from him in my desire to raise extra income to support us as a family because I have no work in the US. He is staying with her aunt who is a govt.diplomat.
    I am writing in the hope that more acceptance, understanding and support be extended to our loved ones coping daily with this mental ailment. It will be more recognizable that govt. laws be promulgated giving more rights and benefits to those suffering from this mental disability. At the same token, and more importantly that the public be more sympathetic, caring, affectionate and be rightly informed that like any major disease mental illness must never be taken for granted. The fact that our brain governs and directs the other systems of the body, its malfunctioning due to chemical imbalances in the brain can create havoc and destroys one’s being.


  3. Thank you for sharing. Everything you said is so true. I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety for years. Now that I’m getting older I feel like I don’t fit anywhere. People have their own life’s and doing their own thing. I’m lonely and struggling to stay afloat because, I don’t want to cause any worries or pain to my family. Everyone things I’m strong but, little do they know I’m dying inside.


    1. Hang in there. I feel like that from time to time. I fight my demons every day and sometimes I fight them hard. But I know right now my baby really needs me. I often think of my funeral and how pretty it will be. But I stay focus on life and try I am now finding out that helping others brings me joy. I joined a Christian church in 2012. I ended up there after being so close to committing suicide. I was too afraid to go through with the plan, and a friend called me out of the blue to invite me to a midweek service. I often battle with my brain. I volunteer now at my church and I enjoy it.

      If you can, for now, find something that can make you happy: cooking, baking, drawing, etc. Let’s not give up. This fight is for us not to lose. We can help someone else live if we stay alive. ♥️♥️♥️♥️


  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am on the flip side of this: my husband is suffering from severe depression and I am concerned for him. Everything you mentioned above seems to reflect our life. Although I try to understand and fight daily against depression myself, I was one of those that thought positive thinking could change things. I’m not sure what to do or where to go for help. Trying to get doctor’s appointments and dealing with medication changes are challenges he faces every day and there seems to be no relief in sight. I’m not sure where to go or how to get him the help he needs as it seems we have exhausted all avenues. Every day is a struggle for him to get out of bed and he struggles with self-worth because of lack of interest in family matters. it’s easier to sleep than face insecurities and financial issues. If you can give me some direction on how to help him before it’s too late, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.


  5. The question is: how does a person get depressed? Get anxiety, PTSD etc. We are not born this way. Depression, bipolar, anxiety etc… are labels…categories created by patriarchy as one of the many ways to keep us divided and conquered. The bottom line is: CONDITIONING. Societal conditioning. TRAUMA. ABUSE.
    We can’t just blame it on disease or chemical imbalance or “disorder”
    Society is in DIS-ORDER. Emotions (energy in motion) ARE messengers.
    Our bodies hold the truth and have been ignored and drugged for far too long.
    Both Kate Spade and ANthony Bourdain were seeing therapists for yesrs! What were their therapists doing to help them? Clearly they were just making money. They were not interested in CURING, they were interested in treating. Treatment makes money. Cures do not. Our bodies are miraculous machines and CAN heal themselves if you allow it.
    Jeff Foster. Read it. Pain IS medicine.


    1. Actually depression and related issues are very much genetic so yes, you can be born this way. There are chemical imbalaces which (at this time) cannot be cured-only treated. Thirty years ago the drugs were dismal and hardly worked. I’m thrilled with the tools we have now but not everyone responds to treatment. Some mental illness is recalcitrant to therapy like schizophrenia bipolar and borderline personality. To say otherwise adds to the illusion of “control”. Until our brain can be “trained” to reject negative thoughts, our genes altered to suppress their expression in mental illness, it will always be a struggle for many. If you escaped depression in your life, thank your lucky stars.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. As someone in the therapeutic field, I thought I would comment on this. Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were seeing therapists, yes. However, because they both committed suicided does NOT mean that the therapists were not trying to work with them. There is not really a “cure” for depression or anxiety, only ways to manage it. Therapists help clients work with their trauma, abuse, depression, anxiety, etc. to find out what the root of it is, work with that, and then apply it to their everyday thoughts and behaviors.
      That being said, a therapist is only helpful if the client is willing to put in the work. A therapist cannot MAKE you do anything. If a client commits suicide, it is not because the therapist didn’t try.
      Also – “Clearly they were just making money”?? Therapy is not a high-salary field. People don’t get into the field for the money.


    3. You clearly do not suffer from mental illness. And your comments and beliefs are exactly what she is addressing in her article as contributing to the reason mental illness is hidden. I suffer from mental illness, as do 2 of my 3 children. I think that it’s safe to say genetics play more of a part in that then “the luck of the draw”, just like missing permanent teeth are a genetic trait in my family.
      Depression and anxiety are real and crippling, to varying degrees for different people. I can get up and go to work even on my worst days and have my demons hidden behind a mask, and yet have my anxiety prevent me from even being able to call my therapist’s office to schedule an appointment.
      No one would probably ever guess that I had very strong suicidal ideations at one point in my life. It is a very dark, scary place and at that point all I wanted was for the pain, fear and anxiety to go away and it feels as if that is the only way to “fix” it. Logical? No, but very real.


  6. This article is amazing. Thank you for giving me the strength and courage to share my story and battles. If I can help one person through this article and my own battle, then I’m doing something right.
    Again, thank you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  7. All I can say is, even with the bullet pointed steps listed to try and help someone. It’s not that easy. Like you said, when someone is filled with anxiety, doesn’t want to leave the house, struggles just to try to work a regular day, frankly the last thing they want to do is have someone come over, go out for coffee, get out of the house…why? Anxiety soars even more. It’s much more complicated than even what’s described here in this article. A lot of good points and maybe some of the suggestions will help some people, so definitely try. But isolating means isolating…it’s not that easy.


  8. Just because someone takes there own life doesn’t mean they have depression or anxiety etc. Some people just chose to die on their own terms or have other stuff going on. How about whenever someone famous takes their life don’t jump on the “they had depression train” to further your own agenda.


    1. Agree. If they were open about having depression or some specific form of mental illness, then it is highly probable their suicide was borne out of that. That’s fair. But you simply can’t assume that all suicides are mental illness (as described here), depression, anxiety, etc. I have suicidal ideation. I think about it everyday. I would say that at the moment the most likely way I will someday die is by suicide. I’m not planning it, I have no trouble resisting it on an average day, but I know I am vulnerable. If something bad happens to me suddenly I know my thoughts will go right there immediately. If the bad thing is bad enough, I may not have enough fight that day. So I just feel precarious. But I’m not depressed. I’m not anxious. I have no trouble getting out of bed, or doing anything that I’ve ever been able to do. What I am is demoralized. My social situation is bad. I don’t have any real human connections. I’m lonely and isolated. It is bad for me. But there is nothing wrong with my brain whatsoever. And I know I could be “cured” more or less instantly if I were to meet a new friend and hit it off and have a good connection. That’s all it would take, I feel that in my bones. I “got this way” rather suddenly also — something like a broken heart, the feeling of that which is over with and accepted, but seems to have left me with little fighting spirit left (and it has been years now). But I know all I need is connection. It is not an illness per se, but a bad situation. It can be remedied, but not treated (with the methods for depression, anyway).

      Now I’m not trying to poo-poo the main thrust of this article, all that is stuff that needs to be said. But it is too narrow, and it seems to have the strong assumption that suicide = mental illness = depression etc because that is a big percentage of it. But not all. And let me tell you when I look at “anti-suicide” stuff, it makes me want to kill myself more. It makes me feel like I can’t even be suicidal right because none of the things apply to me — I do not relate to it at all just like I do not relate to any of the problems cited above in this article (that makes it sound like those are universal feelings and problems for suicidal folks). Anti-suicide literature makes it seem like I am even more invisible and isolated than usual because the stuff specifically written to help some one with these thoughts doesn’t address how I feel or my situation at all. (So I stopped looking at it, there is no help for me there. And I won’t be calling any hotlines because I feel they will put me in MORE danger.)

      And from what I understand, there is a debate about this regarding the DSM. There is a growing realization that “demoralization” got lumped into depression and so everybody got diagnosed with depression. But demoralization is quite different, and the treatments need to be different. Drugs ain’t gonna help me, but hugs from a true friend would. I gotta get some of those…


  9. Small community peer to peer organizations need to be built for people living with mental illness to come together and find strength, understanding and healing among others who understand. A small place on Cape Cod called Dance in the Rain Peer to Peer Mental Health Center is fighting to keep it’s doors open because of funding. It’s a light in the darkness a foothold for many where engagement is the key. The realities of living with mental illness are discussed and understood on an intimate level.
    If only people would stop and see people with the illness do have answers and solutions. When that happens a greater amount of healing would be initiated.


  10. Sometimes we forget the family members who live in your shadows, who try desperately to support and help you. Those who you stay awake all night listening to you, who although not clinically depressed end up lost and scared. The wives/husbands and children that remain forever scarred and damaged, mental illness, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenic, whatever The diagnosis impacts more that the person struggling with the disease.


  11. After watching my husband struggle with extreme anxiety and depression for years. We had exhausted and tried every anti depressant and anti anxiety medication out there. None of them seemed to work or if they “worked”. My husband was a shell of a person and zombie like. Not my husband or our kiddos Dad. Finally a therapist had recommended a fairly new treatment TMS. This treatment saved my husband’s life! Hard to believe but the depression was gone and the anxiety is now a fraction of what it was. His anxiety isn’t controlled by meds anymore. Therapy and other coping strategies that he and his therapist have come up with. TMS is definitely worth looking into, researching and discussing with your therapist. Never heard of it?


  12. Thank you so much for this post Becca ❤

    After loosing my late husband at 26 to Schizophrenia the most poignant and deeply devastating feeling I was left with, and there were many, the way I described it, was having a vision in my head of my husband Bill drowning, in the sea, and me on the shoreline with extended arms but not being able to reach him.

    After Bill died this experience left me with such deep depression I wanted to end my life. I medicated myself with alcohol abuse and unhealthy relationships. Thank fully I didn't end my life.

    After many years of struggle I got help through 12 step programs, therapy and counseling.

    When anyone has any kind of disease everyone if affected and it's so important to talk about it with someone you trust and get help.

    With 24 years of sobriety I'm so very grateful to be alive and to pass on what was so freely given to me by those who cared and loved me as I am.


  13. The news of anyone taking their own life saddens me deeply. Your article helped me understand what an epidemic this really is.

    While I can’t say (or don’t know if) I struggle with depression, when I had an incredibly difficult emotional episode I didn’t know how to deal with, seeking help was nearly impossible. Even though I had health insurance, like you mentioned, just getting in to see a practitioner took all my energy. Since most therapist have waiting lists, I saw the first person available, never mind if they were a good fit for my problems.

    On a day it was minimally bearable, I reluctantly called the Hotline. I felt like a fraud, like an impostor. I cried to the listener that I had no idea why I felt so bad, that I’ve never felt like that before and didn’t know how to deal. Although, I knew I wasn’t suicidal, I also knew it was only temporarily. If I had to battle with that over years and years, I’m not so sure I’d be strong enough.

    Why does the US not have a better system in place? When we suffer yet another mass shooting, they blame it on mental illness, when someone commits suicide, it’s mental illness. So why doesn’t the government take it more seriously?


  14. This is the best post on depression I’ve ever read, truly! Thank you so much for writing and sharing it! I’ve been a mental health advocate since I survived my postpartum depression in 2005 and I haven’t seen anything so informative as this, trying to explain to those who’ve never been depressed what it’s like and how to help. I am sharing this everywhere I can. It carries such an important message that everyone should take the time to read and share.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for sharing your story and being so open and honest with your experience. I’m doing the same the same thing, including being open and honest about the darker side of recovery. All to often I’ve seen people who only want to share the “sunshine and puppies” side but hide the struggles. I’ve dealing with mental illness issues most of my life and like you in and out of therapy since I was 13.

    Thing is though I don’t “suffer” with the mental illness, but I do STRUGGLE. Some days more than others. There are times when I still fight with suicidal thoughts and have to fight through them. But I’m doing what I can to share my experiences, mostly through art (photography in particular).

    The thing that I LOVE about this article in particular is the specific examples you gave of how people can help and reach out to those they see that might be struggling. Especially because several of the suggestions you listed are often do for people who are dealing with a physical illness, cancer in particular, but for whatever reason doesn’t occur to them to treat those struggling with a mental health crisis with the same respect.


  16. thanks for a very informative abd enlightening write up.My husband of 40 years is suffering from this .It has affected our relatiionship , it has impact on my children ,i too is suffering from anxiety .My social.work background and my spirituality made me handle all the challenges this disease that has almost controlled our family .Yes those who suffer from this hide it and ashame of the stigma .professional help support group ,self help study for us to understand it can help a lot .

    It is not easy many of us in this predicament can hide it from people because of our career success .If i share to colleagues their reaction is what else can you ask for you have so much .Only those who are going into this struggle can emphathize .Spirituality help a lot and shift in paradigm .God bless everyone.”peace be still and know that I am God”is my mantra

    Liked by 1 person

  17. thanks for a very informative abd enlightening write up.My husband of 40 years is suffering from this .It has affected our relatiionship , it has impact on my children ,i too is suffering from anxiety .My social.work background and my spirituality made me handle all the challenges this disease that has almost controlled our family .Yes those who suffer from this hide it and ashame of the stigma .professional help support group ,self help study for us to understand it can help a lot .

    It is not easy many of us in this predicament can hide it from people because of our career success .If i share to colleagues their reaction is what else can you ask for you have so much .Only those who are going into this struggle can emphathize .Spirituality help a lot and shift in paradigm .God bless everyone.”peace be still and know that I am God”is my mantra

    Liked by 1 person

  18. thanks for a very informative abd enlightening write up.My husband of 40 years is suffering from this .It has affected our relatiionship , it has impact on my children ,i too is suffering from anxiety .My social.work background and my spirituality made me handle all the challenges this disease that has almost controlled our family .Yes those who suffer from this hide it and ashame of the stigma .professional help support group ,self help study for us to understand it can help a lot .

    It is not easy many of us in this predicament can hide it from people because of our career success .If i share to colleagues their reaction is what else can you ask for you have so much .Only those who are going into this struggle can emphathize .Spirituality help a lot and shift in paradigm .God bless everyone.”peace be still and know that I am God”is my mantra


  19. Beautifully written article. I hope it brings a better understanding about details surrounding bipolar disorder. The decease is hateful. It destroys families, squanders fortunes, etc. but, remember that the first victim is the person with the disorder. She/he does not like being this way but can’t do otherwise.


  20. This was the most well-written description of depression and anxiety and the (lack) of treatment that I have ever read. Thank you for baring your soul and sharing with us. I hope and pray that you are feeling well and continue to do so. God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Just stumbled on a new book that lends some insight into what’s happening to us all. “Lost Connections.”

    The author nails the loneliness and grinding workplaces of modern life. And as we isolate ourselves, we become more anxious, not good company for anyone, perpetuate our own downward spiral. There are apparently roots of this in evolutionary biology. Go away from your tribe and your paranoia and sensitivity soar to help keep you alive alone in the wilderness. It makes sense.


    Liked by 1 person

  22. Loved your article.
    This my story~

    What I believe:
    Depression is a disease. It’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

    It’s not caused by negative thoughts. Negative thoughts are a Symptom.

    Depressed people don’t kill themselves because they’re selfish. They end their lives themselves because they see no other way out of the chamber of their living hell.

    People with depression don’t talk about it, because they don’t trust other people not to judge them. And you know what? Most people do.

    It’s time to end the stigma of mental illness. Depression is a disease of the physical body.

    My story:
    I also have fibromyalgia, anxiety, ptsd, depression. I’m a sexual abuse survivor. Recovering bulimic, alcoholic and drug addict. Also, a Suicide attempt survivor.

    I haven’t tried to kill myself since I quit self-medicating with alcohol and using Benzos and rx diet pills. I got clean in NA and got under the care of a great psychiatrist. I’ve worked my ass off for the past 36 months to nurture my body , mind and soul, in addition to taking an antidepressant.

    I have struggled with mental illness, all my life. Whether it be, food, alcohol, drugs shopping or sex, I have done it all. I have recovered for over 10 years at a time and then quit taking my meds, because I felt, “better and stronger.” Stopping my meds, led to an even worse relapse both times.

    Truth is, “Brain Broke.” And it’s not my fault. What -is- my responsibility is staying in treatment. One day at a time, for the rest of my life . Taking my meds, going to meetings, support groups, doctor appointments, excercising eating right. Above all, nurturing my soul; my spiritual self.

    It’s not a lack of faith, either. So let’s not even go there. Try praying your Diabeties away. It won’t happen. Try fasting to heal your broken bones. It won’t work.

    What worked for me:
    If you, a friend or family member, suffers from alcoholism, addiction, depression or any other mental illness, including anxiety, excessive anger or paranoia, please seek professional help. Go to your local mental health crisis center. They can help you get the ball started. Don’t delay. Contact your local NAMI Chapter. Or visit a 12 step program that suits you. You are not alone.
    I understand.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Bless you for this column, for being so articulate about what it means to live with mental illness. I am 57 years old. My father killed himself when I was 13 and my mother would not talk about it with me and my 14-year-old sister. She told us Dad’s death was an accident (he drowned) and we had no choice but to believe her because 1) we were scared of her temper and 2) nobody else would tell us the truth. It was more than 10 years before she came clean with us. In March, two weeks after she died at the age of 90, my 20-year-old son was hospitalized for depression and suicidal ideation; unbeknownst to us at the time he’d made multiple attempts on his life. He was in the Emergency Department with my husband during my mother’s memorial service. When he found out we had told people he was in the hospital, he got angry with us and told us it was his story to tell. Perhaps if he and my husband hadn’t missed this very public event, we might have kept his hospitalization quiet. As it was, we didn’t tell many people at the time. But as his hospital stay dragged on (in total he was there for 11 weeks), we did talk about because it was happening to us, too. And he became more open about it, although he’s not shouting it from the rooftops, as you say. So my question for you is, how do you respect the privacy and wishes of the mentally ill person but still attend to your needs? My issues around privacy and mental illness are heavily influenced by the way my mother dealt with my dad’s death. I’m with you: I want to shout it from the rooftops. But I’m also aware that it’s my son who is ill, and I want to respect him, too. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you for your thoughtful piece. I found great help with a naturopath testing the “right” things in blood work, taking quality supplements, balancing Bs, folate, probiotics, Vit D and getting in the sun, working on my digestion issues so that I’m actually feeding my brain what it needs to function correctly, including coconut oil, eating really heathy, lots of veggies, etc. We have to be vigilant for our own health these days as our government, health care system, and food systems are all broken. Take up gardening and get the benefits of being outside, earthing, enjoying the sun and natural processes God designed for stress/relaxation/survival, and growing our own healthy organic foods. My prayers for you and the impact you have in your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Thank you for writing a real article and for being real it’s not easy to write openly and I just wanted to say a big thank you x

    Liked by 2 people

  26. How can we explain something that doesn’t make sense, even knowing that it is very real? I have had to understand my own depression so I could stop blaming myself.

    Why is a task impossible on one occasion, yet other times effortless? Why would I want to be this way? I’m not the kind of person who wants pity or enjoys being a victim. I feel good when I’m happy and productive. My life should be great, I have what I need to be happy, why am I so sad? Years after my diagnosis, I stumbled upon information about bipolar disorder. I hadn’t tried to learn about my illness before that, so I didn’t know that others with bipolar disorder had so many of the same, odd behaviors that I do. I couldn’t have made it up, because I didn’t associate certain patterns with my illness. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s as real as a physical illness.

    I have struggled my way out of deep states of depression, but it took a lot of work and favorable circumstances.

    I didn’t suddenly become bipolar at the time of my diagnosis. I can’t remember not having periods of these desperate feelings of agony. My first thought when I was told that I’m bipolar was, no I’m not that bad off. Then I remembered a time as a child, I was about 8, I seriously thought about jumping out of a window. I guess that was a good example of how severe my mental illness was. So why didn’t I jump? The thought that I could be unsuccessful, I could be depressed and paralyzed. Yeah, that would be much worse.

    My dad has seen me when I was high functioning for periods, and at other times mentally crippled, yet he questions the validity of my illness. So I’m just intermittently lazy?

    Its hard for people to understand because I don’t understand it myself.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Thanks everyone for sharing…I suffered with mental illness for 40 years and not all was suffering as
    I had many wonderful friends and family that were there and not necessary with advise. My own advise
    came from when I held my 87 year old neighbour and friend in my arms and then my husband said he was
    dead from a heart attack. After the undertaker took the his body, I stayed with his wife and a voice outside
    of me in fact it felt like it was in front of me and it was the most gentle and kind voice I ever heard and
    it said Do not judge, don`t point fingers and just BE….how hard it is not to judge people, but I found
    it harder not to judge myself…and when I achieve this it is with gratitude and the more moments of
    just being…the more grateful I become…but having answers we are all so different and every person
    has their own sojourn just like their own finger prints and we must never distinguish one from another person
    as we are all brothers and sisters in this world. Good Wishes .

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Thank you, Becca, for your candid and real discussion about mental illness. I keep my eyes open for more and more information on this debilitating subject as my daughter suffers from many of the same issues that you do. I cannot say that I “understand” what she is going through as she is definitely SMI, whereas I am AMI. The only reason I know that I am AMI is through my daughter’s help. I have learned to slow down and ask questions before just expecting her to go places with me; how to avoid crowded aisles in the grocery store and come back later; how to read her face and body language when her anxiety is high and on the verge of a panic attack; and how to just sit and wait until she is ready to tell me what she needs. As a result, she has learned to ask for my “squeezy hug” that helps calm her body; tell me in simple terms that she “just can’t today” and we change our plans; to dealing with people and statements that trigger her anxiety and ridding herself of those triggers; to being able to got back to college and hold a part-time job (for now.) As a mom, this is not what I had envisioned for my child. My child should have finished high school in the school building, not from home; attended all the events and had all the experiences that “every” high schooler should have. She should have gone to college at 18, completed a 4-year degree, and now be a successful adult, possibly married and have a child of her own. But at 24-years-old, she deals with the after effects of abuse by a cousin, severe celiac disease, endometriosis, anxiety, panic attacks, and a suicide attempt. She still struggles and will always struggle with these things, but with awareness and proper medical care, she has made strides. I thank God every day for where she has come, and curse the devil for his power over our world and the evil he places on good people like my daughter.
    Thank you, Becca. I have heard your words loud and clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Hello Becca. I was browsing through several posts here on WordPress when I came across yours. I am so so sorry to hear about what you are going through. I am happy that you are taking a stand. Your post was lengthy, but it is highly informative. I am thankful for the insight that I have received from reading it.

    Becca, if I may ask, do you believe in God? I know that this might sound like a silly question. However, the bible is on point with the issue that you described in your post. You mention that mental illness causes peoples minds to tell them negative things. The bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 ““The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?


  30. Hello Becca. I was browsing through posts here on WordPress when I came across this post from you. I am so so sorry to hear about what you are going through. However, I am happy that you are taking a stand on the issue of mental health. Your post was lengthy, but it was also informative, I am glad that I read it.

    If I may ask, do you believe in God? I know that this question might sound silly to you. However, some of the things you detail here are in line with scripture. You mention in your post that mental illnesses causes your mind to say negative things to you. The bible says in Jeremiah 17:9
    “9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

    Our minds are deceitful and wicked. Our minds sometimes likes to taunt us with negative feelings and emotion. Our minds can be wicked not only to others, but to ourselves.

    The bible says in Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.”

    If our hearts determine the course of our lives as described above, then a person who constantly has bad thoughts would have a poor course of life. You will find that this scripture is in line with reality. People who have bad thoughts all the time really do have a poorer quality of life overall.

    How can we change the situation? We can change the situation through Christ. When we submit to Christ and make him our lord and personal savior, he renews our mind. When we walk faithfully with God, we also receive the gift of the holy spirit. Concerning the holy spirit Galatians 5:22-23 says “22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

    When we accept God and gain the gift of the holy spirit, we can expect the fruits above to begin to manifest in our lives as we read the word of God and obey it.

    I suggest that you begin a relationship with God and take your issues to him in prayer. I know that he can help you. He is an ever merciful God.

    Say this prayer with me: “Father God, I thank you. I thank you for everything that you have done for me, both those that I am aware of and those that I am unaware of. God of Elijah hear my prayer Lord. I pray that you put true heavenly happiness in my life Lord. I pray that I find peace and fulfillment. I break loose any ties binding me to mental illnesses, anxiety and mood problems. I rebuke every evil forces in the spiritual realm that are waiting to rob me off the blessings that I know you will send to me. I pray for this not by my authority, but in the name of Jesus, Amen.

    If you wish to start a relationship with God (if you do not already have one), here are the steps that I usually recommend:

    1) find a quiet space free from distractions, a place where you can pray.

    2) imagine that Jesus is in front of you, talk to him the way you will with a close friend. Tell him that you are ready to accept him, invite him to come into your life and become your lord and personal savior. Ask for forgiveness of past sins. Tell Jesus that you want to die to your old self and be reborn as a new creation in him. Pray that you inherit eternal life and the kingdom of God. Beware of sudden distractions when you pray, this is a trick the devil uses to stop us from having focused prayers. You might also get the feeling that God is not there or that you are simply wasting your time, this is another trick that the devil uses to discourage us from prayers.

    3) If you have any specific prayers, or something specific that you need, you can ask it in Jesus name, and God would attend to the prayers. God usually has three answers to prayers: Yes, Yes but wait, and No. God has a reason for every answer, and his answers are usually what is best for you. When you pray, you need to have faith that you will receive. God does not like it when we pray but doubt his ability to provide what we want for us. Lastly, prayers and faith without works wont bring results. E.g. If all a person does is prays and has faith that they would get a job, without actually applying to jobs, they WOULD NOT get a job. God does not work that way, God loves hard-working people, and God rewards hard-work. If all Christians had to do is pray, have faith, and stay home all day awaiting a blessing, Christians would be the laziest people on earth. LOL. Your part is to pray that God should fast-track your success, so that you recieve your blessings quicker than people who are relying on their own strength. Your blessings might also come in a bigger way. Remember to thank God when you get the answers to your prayers.

    4) Read the bible and obey it. You can find free bibles online. You can also find free bible apps on google play. Keep praying all the time and maintain a connection with God.

    5) Trials and tribulations may come your way, sometimes these are designed to test your faith, and sometimes they are simply tricks from the devil to get you to denounce the religion. At times like this, you pray to God, you fast, and you maintain consistency in the faith, this way, God would lift you above all trials and afflictions.

    6) You can join a community of bible believing Christians. Having friends who are believers would keep you on track, and the conversations about the religion would be beneficial to your faith.

    7) Get a water baptism, and pray to God so that you can receive a baptism in the holy spirit.

    8) Begin to educate yourself on the things of the lord. Read books from ministers who have practised deliverance, healing, seeing in the spirit, and other gifts. Read about how they got these anoiting and learn more about the workings of the spiritual realm through Christian books.

    (The things written in this list are not to be followed in any particular order. The most important thing is to begin by asking for a forgiveness of sins, confess Jesus as your personal lord and saviour, and pray for eternal life. You can mix up the order of the rest. However, I strongly suggest you do them all simultaneously).

    Whenever you get bad thoughts, here is a bible verse that you can read to counter it:
    2 Corinthians 10: 4-5 “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”

    I pray that you get better soon. God bless you sister. Have a great day.


  31. This is a great post! I loved your tips for reaching out. This is SO prevalent today but so many people still keep their struggles in the dark. I’m not sure how we can make the switch but I admire how the UK is making a huge effort to destigmatize mental illness. Even greater yet if we can find cures and treatment that help!


  32. My favorite part of this article is probably the part where you put out realistic things people can do to help someone with depression and anxiety. I think you’re right, we simply need to fucking talk about it. Thanks for taking the time to write this post and also for sharing your own story. I don’t judge you at all for it, I admire you for it.


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