The world doesn’t need me to weigh in on suicide. But I will, if only to sort out my own thinking.

I’ve been depressed but not clinically. I’ve never wanted to end my life. I cannot fathom feeling that suicide is the best option. But I can’t fathom deep space either though I know it exists. So I take Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade at their word. They determined suicide to be the best option. They alone knew the vast dark dimensions of their own deep space and I won’t second guess them.

Or their loved ones.

When a high profile suicide occurs, the implicit blaming begins. How? With the quick supposition that had only someone reached out, offered a hug and a phone number, the suicide could have been prevented. Be sure to tell your children, parents, friends that you love them! Hug your children. Let them know you care. So we say I love you all the time so as to avoid that awful eventuality. Oh my God, had I only told him I loved him this wouldn’t have happened!

This makes a suicide the product of the survivors’ deficiencies. If we had done better, been more expressive, hugged more, dialed more phone numbers, found better doctors, and stood guard every single minute of every single day, the suicide would not have happened. It makes the suicide the result of our behavior, a terrible measure of how much we care and how good we are at putting our caring into practical solutions. Who wins at this game?

Casual observers win. Because for sure now they will smile more at people because lord knows everyone is fighting their own battle and they will tell all their friends to reach out if they are feeling really awful. Call me if you are feeling really depressed. Okay. And you will do what exactly?

People who love someone who has died by suicide lose. Because they didn’t do enough. They couldn’t navigate a deep terrifying space they could not fathom but knew to exist. They could not transplant their belief in tomorrow and hope for the future to someone depleted of both. They could not be there every minute, could not watch every minute. At some point, they had to sleep.

You can’t hug or love your way out of a heart attack. Cancer doesn’t care if it’s watched. But there is treatment for both. Complex treatments that require teams of doctors and nurses. Innovations all the time, treatment centers that fly flags that say they are #1 in the country. Places compete with each other to have the most cutting edge treatment. So if someone you love has a heart attack or cancer, your job is to drive them to one of these places with a #1 flag and go down to the cafeteria and wait.

If you love someone with a mental health challenge that includes suicidal thinking, you’re out there with a mop and a pail. On your own. Calling people who have crammed appointment books, filling prescriptions that won’t take effect for six weeks, afraid to turn your back for a single second. And waiting for what you have come to believe is an inevitable end to your efforts to keep someone you love alive. It’s hellish.

We need mental health treatment centers flying #1 flags and organizing teams of professionals. It’s no different. Mental illness can be just as lethal as cancer and heart attacks.

Analyzing the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade is impossible. If you are not a traveler in their deep space, you don’t know what you are talking about. And you have no standing. Love couldn’t cure them. They were loved. And the people who loved them shouldn’t carry the burden of their suicides. I don’t know them but I would readily believe that the people who loved them did all they could. They didn’t fail. Nobody failed. People died by suicide. No one is to blame. But we can all do better and we must.


Photo by Thom Schneider on Unsplash