By Claire Dietz, Communications Intern
The last major celebrity to die by suicide that I remember is Robin Williams. But I was just entering college, which I thought was a new chapter in a new part of my life. Now, almost four years later, we are dealing with the aftermath of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides, and this hits closer to home than ever before. I remember watching Anthony Bourdain with my mom when I was growing up. Bourdain made me interested in cooking as I’ve gotten older. His cookbooks inspired me, his prose is something worthy of envy and awe.
In my sophomore year of college at the University of Iowa, I developed major depression and anxiety. I was sleeping every moment I could. I wasn’t enjoying any of my favorite things anymore. I felt worthless and numb. I remember when, at my lowest points, I felt lost and unsure of where to turn. At some points, it felt like I couldn’t keep living like this.
Eventually, I was able to muster up enough strength and willpower to reach out to the university’s counseling services. From there, I was able to get on a path that would lead to me getting better. But I’m not here to talk about how I’m glad I got better. I’m here to talk about how I’m glad I got help.
One of the biggest barriers to getting help was actually admitting to myself I needed help in the first place. But, that was quickly replaced by the fears of the trials and tribulations of getting help for mental illness entails. What if I didn’t like my therapist? Or I was turned away from the counseling services? Or if I couldn’t get medication I, luckily, had access to my university counseling services. I worked with a Ph.D. student who would listen and help me for the next four months. But a lot of people don’t have that ready access to mental health counseling and services.
During my time as a university student, the University of Iowa prioritizes mental health access for their students and faculty. As a result, I had access to mental health facilities and resources that were just part of my tuition.
Thankfully, my crises seemed limited to business hours, where I could get in touch with my appointed counselor. But, sometimes during off hours, crises lines can be really the only way people receive help, even if they do have a counselor. This is where crisis lines and chats can fill the void left by lack of access to counselors or the help people need.
Since a lot of people don’t have access to counseling and other related services, a lot of people are left in limbo. Therapy is expensive, and so is medication. But there are still opportunities to get help. There are places like The Crisis Center who are aimed at helping people in the community, no matter what.
And now we have an opportunity to talk about our mental health. We have had many, but I think now, more than ever, this is an opportunity to talk about how depression and anxiety can affect us.
Mental health problems do not discriminate. If Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides have shown us anything, it’s that people who seem to “have it all” can still be depressed and can still be mentally ill.
This is an opportunity to talk about our mental health, frankly and openly. No one, no matter whether they are famous or not, should have to hide their mental illness for fear of damaging their public brand.
But, we’ve had many opportunities to talk about mental health and getting help. The question I have is, how many people need to die by suicide before we realize this is a problem?
In Iowa alone, according to the CDC, suicide has increased by anywhere from 31% to 37% per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2016. Minnesota’s suicide rates have increased anywhere from 38% to 58% during the same time period. Suicide is a public health problem, and we need to talk about it, now.
Getting help for my depression was simultaneously the hardest and best decision I could have made at the time. It is not an easy path, nor a straightforward one. It was not easy to admit to myself that I needed help. But, with these suicides, we are seeing that more and more people are struggling to get help.
Part of the struggle to get help involves access to resources. I think at some of my lowest points, I could have used someone to talk to. I felt isolated and beyond alone, an island unto myself. The Crisis Center offers several resources for people who are struggling, including their Crisis Line, if you prefer to talk on the phone, and the Crisis Chat, if you prefer to type.
Are these resources replacements for access to things like therapy, or medication? No. But they are a starting point. The Crisis Center works with people who need help, no matter what. No insurance? That doesn’t matter. Don’t think your problems are that big of a deal? Someone is still there to talk to you.
We need to start being proactive about mental health. It shouldn’t be until we lose our favorite celebrity to suicide that we remember people are suffering from complications from mental health every day because they don’t have access to resources that can help them start to get better, in whatever form that takes.
Now, more than ever we have to talk about how mental health can affect each and every one of us.
The Crisis Line can be reached at 1-855-325-4296 or you can chat online now.