Suicide: The Death of Dreams

Statistics show a huge increase in suicide among middle-aged women.

Posted Jun 06, 2018

Yesterday, so many people around the world were shocked to hear that fashion icon Kate Spade had committed suicide. Her death serves as a reminder that mental illness crosses all economic, demographic, and social boundaries: It does not discriminate.

There have been many speculations and opinions about Kate's state of mind and situation prior to her suicide, but even though she was separated from her husband Andy for ten years, they'd known one another for 35 years, he's probably the one to offer the most heartfelt sentiments. In a statement the day after her passing, he said he and his daughter were absolutely devastated by their loss and couldn't imagine life without her. He claimed that she suffered from depression and anxiety for many years and was seeking help and working with professionals to treat her disease.  He also said he saw her the night before her suicide and there were no warnings. The real fact is that her personal demons which she was battling, finally took over.

No doubt, those who decide to take their lives have probably been suffering for an extended period of time. Often the emotional pain is so overwhelming that they view suicide as their only viable alternative, but it's not a black-and-white issue.

For many people, the stigma tied to having mental-health issues prevents them from seeking help. Shame is sometimes an issue and this can lead to depression, the most common precursor to taking one’s life. Loneliness, which often occurs after separation or divorce from a long-term partner, is also something that is common, but will be addressed in my next blog entry.

With Spade’s passing, some surprising statistics were made public. According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States. Also, the suicide rate among middle-aged women (45 to 65) rose 63 percent from 1999 to 2014. Some of the reasons have to do with women’s changing roles in the workplace and the challenge of juggling career and family—it’s a lot to manage. Women feel as if they’re being pulled in too many directions, and perfectionism is something that is difficult to maintain but also hard to let go of. While many women feel as if they should be able to do it all, there are times when it’s just not possible; and they may take out their frustrations by overindulging in drugs, food, and/or alcohol. An article in The Guardian last year claimed that the main reasons for the increase in suicide among women are job loss, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. 

The people who suffer the most are those who are left behind, who will have to deal with guilt and loss for the rest of their lives as they ask themselves what they could have done to prevent the suicide, and whether there were any signs they missed.

If you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one due to suicide, here are some things to consider:

  • Losing a loved one can trigger other intense emotions.
  • You need to be prepared for shock and disbelief.
  • Feelings of guilt are normal, as is thinking about the “What ifs,” but remember that the suicide is not your fault.
  • It’s normal to withdraw from daily activities.
  • Give yourself time to heal. Everyone grieves in their own way.
  • Expect setbacks.
  • Reach out to supportive friends and family.
  • Suspend gatherings/memories that are too painful.
  • Consider journaling about your feelings on a daily basis.
  • Join a support group.
  • Seek professional help, as needed.

We can never completely understand the extent of another person’s emotional pain. However, if you or someone you know is suffering, please immediately seek support and assistance.

Here are two resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat online

For substance-abuse problems, please contact:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

References

"A Clinical Psychologist reflects on the combination of cultural factors at play in this disturbing trend." The Guardian April 26, 2018.

Jamison, Kay R. (1997). An inquiet mind. New York, NY: Vintage.

Gonzales, Erica (2018). "Kate Spade's husband just released a heart-breaking statement about her death." Harper's Bazaar. June 6.