This month the deaths of Kate Spade, the famous fashion designer, and Anthony Bourdain, the Food Network and CNN chef, have resulted in numerous articles littering the internet and news. Some of these articles discuss graphic and specific details about the deaths of these two high-profile individuals, sensitive information about their families, and even unconfirmed speculation about the circumstances surrounding their suicides.
With shows like 13 Reasons Why available for streaming on Netflix, it cannot be denied that the media both glamorizes and sensationalizes suicide. Often the greatest desire outsiders have is to understand exactly the answers that books and shows like 13 Reasons Why purport to answer: why someone would choose to end their life. The confusion of the general public seems only magnified by the fact that both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were successful and wealthy, qualities our culture are convinced invariably result in happiness.
For those who do not struggle with depression or mental illness, and who have little experience with loved ones who do, it is often incomprehensible that someone would choose to take their own life. Oftentimes people who are not directly affected pass judgement or demand answers and explanations. The trouble is, even with celebrities—who it seems so often leave the door open for the public to wander through their lives as they please—the circumstances and cause of someone’s death should remain private. This privacy should be granted out of respect for the individual and their family.
In addition, sensationalized and graphic coverage of celebrity suicides are proven to lead to more cases of suicide, according to a recent NPR article. People who are in the same demographic and/or profession who also struggle with depression and mental illness may be stirred by news of celebrity suicide. Calls to suicide hotlines spiked 25% in the wake of these two celebrity deaths, according to The Wall Street Journal. Sometimes, copycat attempts are even made courtesy of the details disclosed by news coverage.
Instead of covering these details, exploiting tragedy, and sensationalizing the taking of one’s own life, the media should focus on promoting ways to help destigmatize mental illness. Taking away the negative stereotypes associated with depression, especially, is paramount in reducing the devastating number of suicides that occur each year.
Before you click on the article “Kate and Andy Spade 'Had Issues For a While,' Source Says, After Husband Reveals They Were Separated” posted by People Magazine on Thursday, think instead about how much you know about depression. Do research. Find out the number of a suicide hotline. Check in on your friends. Take care of yourself and ask for help if you need it.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Check out this Buzzfeed article for more information about how the hotline works and the services it provides.