With suicide rates on the rise over the past two decades, the time to begin prioritizing mental health issues is long overdue. It is heartbreaking that it takes the passing of successful and well-known celebrities in order to begin the conversation surrounding mental health.
It is hard to imagine that someone who appears to have it all could be struggling enough to take their own life. The passings of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have shed light on mental health misconceptions. No matter the amount of success, money and support an individual may be surrounded with, mental illness can still severely impair one’s well-being. If creating one of the most well-known handbag companies in the world, or a revolutionary travel TV-series cannot fulfill your happiness, then maybe the definition of “happiness” is not what we think it is.
Maybe instead of striving for money and power, we should look beyond one’s status because they may be struggling on the inside. The stigma surrounding mental illness has fostered an environment in which expressing your mental state is not taken seriously. According to The National Alliance on Mental Health, “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million, or 18.5 percent) experience mental illness in a given year”. If mental illness is affecting so much of our population, how come we have such trouble discussing it? Although diminishing mental health stigma will not happen overnight, it is crucial to continue to make progress.
There have recently been major mental healthcare improvements implemented through The Mental Health Parity Act (2008) and The Affordable Care Act (2010). These policies have created many benefits such as, allowing children to remain on their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26, expanding medicaid coverage, making mental health one of the ten required services that insurance companies must cover, and enforcing parity amongst mental and physical healthcare coverage. While these are steps in the right direction, there is still a lot of ground to cover.
We spend so much time and money researching various physical health crises, but we continue to ignore the 10th leading cause of death in the United States: suicide (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). With more research and funding allocated towards mental illness, we could not only drive attention away from stigma, but also help to lower suicide rates. There is no reason that taking a sick day should be acceptable for physical, but not mental ailments.
While we are devastated by the loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, we can only hope that their deaths help start a movement to address mental health that will save many lives in the future.
-Olivia Haskell and Julia Wanfried
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.