Mental Health Foundation discusses suicide awareness education following celebrity deaths

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- For the second time this week a celebrity has died from suicide. On Tuesday, it was designer Kate Spade found in her New York apartment. On Friday, celebrity chef and CNN host Anthony Bourdain was discovered dead at the age of 61.

It's an issue that touches people in all walks of life and it's getting worse. On Thursday, the CDC announced suicide rates in most states, including Michigan, have gone up 30 percent since 1999. They are numbers the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan says will only go down with awareness.

The topic of suicide is being discussed all across the country currently, something that's more prevalent following the sudden deaths of celebrities like Kate Space and Anthony Bourdain.

"One of the big myths about suicide is that talking about it is going to put the idea in someone’s head," said Jessica Jones, program promotion coordinator for the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. "That is a myth. That is not true. Talking about suicide with someone who maybe even thinking about it can actually prevent it from happening.”

Jones says it's unfortunate the conversation starts after the fact when it should happen before someone takes their own life.

“Mental illness doesn’t have a certain face, anyone can be affected," said Jones. "There are a lot of factors that go into that so it’s good to know what your risk factor is for having a mental illness like depression are.”

Jones says recognizing some of the warning signs can have a big effect. While everyone's different, there are some commonalities to look out for.

"If they've quit something that they loved or they stopped engaging in a hobby, or they might be giving away personal items, or talking about death," said Jones.

Also, not engaging in social relationships, pushing people away, showing changes in personality or behavior that lasts longer than two weeks.

While it might be an uncomfortable conversation to have, Jones says talking to that person in a loving or caring way could work. Letting them hear themselves say it out loud could be enough.

“It’s very important to talk about it so that people know that there are options and there’s hope and that suicide is not the only way out," said Jones. "So that’s where educating and bringing about awareness is how we save lives.”

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or self harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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1 Comment

  • Kevin Rahe

    With efforts like legalizing assisted suicide, we send the message that health is more important than life. And when “health” includes self-diagnosed MENTAL health – another message we send with measures like permitting abortion for reasons of a woman’s “health” – then what it really boils down to is that these folks are simply following our prescription for them. We have a choice to make. We can either value ALL human life, or we can choose to devalue SOME human life and risk going down the slippery slope that leads to valuing NONE of it. There is no sustainable middle ground.