In the Face of Yet Another Tragic Loss, We Must Act

MHA’s national CEO, Paul Gionfriddo, issued the following statement on the passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain:

By: Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO, Mental Health America

“We were shocked today by the death of Anthony Bourdain, the second public figure this week to die by suicide. And, as Kate Spade’s husband said in the wake of her death, there seemed to be no warning signs.

“The sad truth is that, according to data released this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), death by suicide is increasingly dramatically in the United States. Since 1999, suicide rates have increased by 25 percent. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016. And, perhaps most troubling, 54 percent of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

“Too many people in America do not have access to mental health services and too often we neglect the impacts of traumatic events that sometimes fester for decades before taking people’s lives.

“Death by suicide is the ultimate Stage 4 event in the progression of many mental health conditions, whether or not they have ever been recognized and labeled. People don’t just go from being perfectly healthy one day to having suicidal ideation the next, just as they don’t go from being perfectly healthy one day to having any other late stage chronic condition the next.

“So, if we’re paying attention from the start, we have time to prevent many suicides from happening. But we must intervene early. We can’t always wait for the medical diagnoses to catch up with people’s lived experiences. When people are exposed to trauma, we must stop ignoring them or even bullying them. When people are exposed to unsafe living conditions, violence, abuse, and neglect, we must change these conditions. When people do struggle in the moment, we must reach out to them to give them comfort.

“And when people lose their sense of hope for the future, we must engage with them to restore that hope.

“At Mental Health America, we have tools and resources to help, as does nearly every other mental health advocacy organization. And when these resources aren’t enough, we refer people to staffed resources that are available to everyone in the country 24/7, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line.

“In the aftermath of these highly visible tragedies, let’s resolve not to sit back. Let’s use them as an occasion to act. Let’s reach out to, and engage with, others. Let’s put in place the policies to address the root causes of suicide. And let’s resolve – finally – to start bending the suicide curve in the opposite direction.”