What Kate and Anthony Have in Common

Jun 28th, 2018

By Stuart Archer, CEO, Oceans Healthcare

This month we lost two national icons to suicide: fashion designer and businesswoman Kate Spade and celebrity chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain. While fashion icon and food mogul may seem worlds apart, they shared a common struggle – hiding a later-in-life mental health struggle behind wildly successful public lives. Both were prominent individuals highly respected in their fields. But as the public mourns, their deaths have sparked increased conversation about the secrecy surrounding mental illness and the rising suicide rates in our country.

Earlier this week the CDC released new data citing increases in suicide rates among nearly every demographic. Suicide rates have gone up more than 30 percent in half of all states since 1999 and more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a previously known mental health condition.

For many individuals experiencing mental illness during middle age or later in life, the stigmas associated with seeking treatment can be perpetuated by the perception of socioeconomic and personal successes. What is particularly shocking to the public about the deaths of Bourdain, 61, and Spade, 55, is the disconnect between the appearance of their public lives and the reality of their hidden mental health struggles. Their deaths serve as a reminder of the often unnoticeable symptoms of mental illness, and the ways we as a society can overlook them.

Sometimes the misperceptions of seeking treatment can intensify under pressures to project and attain career and personal success. Individuals may have established careers, growing families or other indicators of success that aren’t typically associated with preconceived ideas about the type of people affected by mental illness.

This stigma continues to be one of our country’s biggest battles in ensuring individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and other behavioral health issues get the treatment they need. Yet stories like these, of high-profile celebrities struggling in silence, are becoming more frequent. Mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic status; most importantly, it can be treated.

While this issue may seem daunting, the solutions begin with increasing awareness and education in our communities about available behavioral health resources. This includes teaching people how to identify signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety and other behavioral health issues in themselves and in others, and how to seek treatment. And it’s important to note not all treatment happens in an inpatient facility like many of our affiliated hospitals. Support and clinical guidance can be offered in an intensive outpatient program or through a less rigorous one-on-one therapy schedule.

Most importantly, we must begin and continue to foster conversations among ourselves, our families, with friends and neighbors, in community groups, workplaces, schools and other organizations to help destigmatize mental illness and encourage people to seek help when they need it.

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Stuart Archer is CEO of Plano, Texas-based Oceans Healthcare, a nationally recognized behavioral health provider focused on healing and long-term recovery. He is also an at-large member of the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare’s Board of Trustees.

 

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn

 

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