The week ends with high-profile deaths (Kate Spade, Ines Zorreguieta, and Anthony Bourdain) and the tie that binds them is the manner in which they died. All three succumbed to a disease that is silent but deadly — which explains the disbelief of those left behind — as they grapple with the abrupt loss — and crippling effects of the unknown.
Social media is now the authority of how these types of cases are handled — under the microscope of “trends” — and as an active user — as well as someone who manages the challenges of lifelong depression — it’s almost unbearable to witness the harmful ways that the media-at-large chooses to handle an ultra-sensitive topic.
So-called experts that are called by cable networks to lend their special brand of expertise are surprisingly inefficient in their delivery — as they lazily point out the cliched items on the list for survival.
It begins with the encouragement to notice the warning signs — like a drastic change in behavioral patterns — and then ends with the recommendation to seek help when the darkness gets too dark — or to ensure that loved ones who are troubled — are given the support and love they require — through professional evaluation.
Celebrities and influencers utilize their timelines to plead to followers who are suffering in silence — to immediately take note of the tweets and retweets that contain pertinent information about how you can save your life — if you’re thinking about ending it.
Everyone seems determined to express how they feel in ways that almost seem scarily distant because of how unnervingly complex the subject of suicide has always been and will always be.
Before the era of click-worthy jargon — breaking news about the death of a notable spread through radio and television. I remember when comedian and SNL cast member — Phil Hartman passed away after his wife shot him in his sleep before turning the gun on herself while their kids slept in the other room.
I was working a telemarketing gig in midtown Manhattan and suddenly someone announced his death — and of course the shock and sadness overwhelmed the room as we took advantage by sharing memories — and essentially comforting ourselves through the bond of a remarkable loss.
And then it was back to life as usual — after respectfully acknowledging a horrifying incident that presents the reminder of our searing fragility.
It’s true that there’s a huge difference between dying at the hands of a murderer and dying by your own hand — but my point lies in the over-exposure of celebrity deaths and the way all those details exact more damage than we can ever imagine.
The coverage and responses to the unfolding drama can gang up to create minefields for vulnerable users who also can’t pry themselves away from the wreckage.
It’s easy to forget the responsibility of being trigger-wary in the age of being social because of the way we’ve been primed to self-destruct with the help of the very tools that we helplessly believe can save lives.
Unfortunately — this climate has been so deceitful that we’re no longer capable of digging deeper — in an effort to truly connect and possibly overthrow the regime of shallowness — that dictates the lie of how you can simply post the number to a suicide hotline — and feel great about your contribution to mankind.
Do you ever consider the fact that as the weeks go by — and the trending topic of suicide fades away to make room for hot ticket items — those who suffer without breaks — will still be feeling their way in the dark while you return to the business of living?
Suicide is not a trend that’s suddenly streaming with vengeance because of the people associated with it — and it isn’t helpful to only be concerned when these moments arise without expanding your mind to embrace how terminal illnesses don’t always have to require chemotherapy.
Most people are miserable beyond comprehension but never think about ending their lives — and if they do it’s a fleeting act of desperation that never goes beyond the initial cry for help.
People who suffer from mental health issues usually don’t want to help. Some are open to it — but most are opposed to the idea because they don’t believe it will make a difference.
There’s also the group of sufferers who have become so accustomed to the hovering cloud that they’ve mastered the skill of masking the dismal forecast that they carry with them. You can’t help someone who appears to be “normal” because you’re not a mind-reader. You can’t know that the co-worker with the witty jokes who loves happy hour — and promises to hit South Beach with you in October — actually prays that she won’t stop in the middle of traffic each time she crosses the street.
Social media and the art of being social trivializes serious shit and turns everything into an event — that will eventually end when the crowd disperses and the musical chairs of “advice” comes to a screeching halt.
But — the brutal truth that separates us is the fact that sufferers are aware of their fate. Unfortunately there’s no end date for those of us who function with the burden of uncertainty.
There’s only here and now — and the urgent need not to get carried away with the festival that will be long gone by this time next week. Hashtags don’t save lives — neither do the advice from those who can’t possibly relate to the notion of falling apart while in the company of loved ones — who will never know how often you contemplate the possibility of your demise.
Suicide is not a joke and it’s not a state of being that can be remedied under the tutelage of doctors — or prescribed pills — or any of the other suggestions that sound like winners.
Yes — diet and exercise can make a difference — and talking to someone who is educated enough to provide some relief is also not a bad idea.
But — ultimately we have to face the seriousness of a disease that can’t be cured — and respect its power and might — instead of pretending that hotlines and appointments are the key components to manageability and survival.
We also have to be wary of how our words can trigger sufferers by making them feel inadequate and guilty for not being able to get well — despite all the endorsed resources at their disposal.
When you say “please get help” or “talk to someone” or any of the other stuff clogging my timeline — you’re assuming that if sufferers adopt those measures — things will substantially improve and in most cases — that’s not realistic or even accurate.
Why don’t we admit defeat by confessing that this disease is bigger than us and while we don’t have the answers — we can only hope that those who are in constant pain —find the courage to alleviate the symptoms without resorting to tragic methods.
We know that sufferers can’t fully control their moods — even with the assistance of medication and all the other systems that are set up to prevent failure — but we hope for the very best outcome because that’s all we can do.
If we’re going to continue to be social — lets engage with honesty and integrity and forgo the “know it all” bravado when lives are at stake.
Not knowing shit is sometimes humanely refreshing and triggers warmth and relief. Believe me — I know.