It happened again twice this past week — at least the two that have made world news. The suicides of renowned fashion designer Kate Spade and the hanging death of chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain.
Of the myriad questions asked following the suicide of people of prominence, such as these two, that is most commonly asked: “What did they have to be depressed about? They had it all.”
Too many think like that when it comes to trying to rationalize why someone would, or could, take their own life. Temporary life problems rectified with a permanent solution. Mental illness is a crippling disease that can leave its victims helplessly caught in a malaise of misery. It cannot be masked by a fake, outward smile.
But no one … no one … knows what is going on inside another’s mind. No one could see behind that smile. And that is the most miserable aspect of this disease. It is so easy to say “choose to be happy or sad,” “turn that frown upside down” or other words of encouragement. It’s easy to say because there are few outward signs, other than the perceived “being in a foul mood.”
Imagine visiting a friend who is in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. He has no choice but to be in that chair.
Now imagine walking in and telling him to get up, just get up. Mind over matter. Get up and walk.
Of course that is ridiculous to even think of saying. The visible evidence of his inability to walk is there. We can see it. We can understand it and acknowledge it.
While these two cases made headlines both here and abroad, think of the millions of people, just average ordinary people who suffer from this same disease and these same thoughts.
Mental illness is easily hidden, kept away still because of a stigma and gross misunderstanding of the disease. Just as no one would tell a paralyzed person to get up and walk, they shouldn’t reduce the effects of mental illness to “turn that frown upside down.”