On Tuesday morning, we woke to news that designer Kate Spade had complete suicide by hanging herself – with a scarf. By Friday morning, the news was covering Anthony Bourdain’s suicide by hanging. As I combed the articles and updates for suicide resources, I found most of them lacking. In many cases, the juicy, morbid details took center stage over the more important topic of discussion – where to get help.
The deaths of these two individuals is devastating – not because they were prominent and successful (although they certainly were both) – but because they were two people suffering immense pain who felt that they had nowhere else to turn. Anyone reading about the suicides should have information on where to go for help, should they need it.
Because, guess what? Suicidal people read about suicide. My husband, Bill Brotherton, completed suicide by train in Dana Point several years ago. He had never been diagnosed with mental illness, but – unbeknownst to me – had been exhibiting the warning signs for suicide for months. Those warning signs included a preoccupation with death and suicide.
What I understand now is that suicide – much like mental illness – does not discriminate. My husband, along with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, seemed to have it all – a great career and healthy relationships. And yet all three tragically chose to end their lives. And unfortunately, they aren’t anomalies.
The CDC reports that suicide rates have increased by 25 percent across the United States over the last two decades – and more than half of those who died by suicide had never been diagnosed with a mental health condition. With 45,000 lives lost to suicide in 2016 alone, this is now a critical mental health crisis.
Americans as a whole, and specifically our youth, are in drastic need of education and information. Rather than reporting morbid details, we need relevant, tactical information on suicide and the resources available to anyone who needs help. Andy Spade, Kate’s estranged husband, said that there were no warning signs. The thing is, those warning signs are easily overlooked by those not educated on them – as I was not when my husband needed me to be. The bottom line is that the average person just doesn’t know all the risk factors and warning signs for suicide.
So how can we fight this growing epidemic? We need to cut the stigma associated with mental illness. My husband never wanted to “disappoint” people – including me – by talking about his struggles. Kate Spade feared injuring her brand by seeking help. But illness is illness, whether it’s cancer or diabetes or depression or any other number of mental illnesses. Education is the key to removing that stigma and helping those in pain.
Since my husband’s death, I’ve made it my life’s mission to educate young people, along with their teachers and parents, about suicide. My book, R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide, is filled with the resources and tactical information the media lacks in its coverage of these tragic events.
Some of the information presented in "R U OK?" include:
Suicide warning signs
Risk factors for suicide
Suicide affects every demographic, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or background. That said, there are several factors that make someone more likely than another to complete suicide. Those risk factors include:
Suicide knows no time or season. By knowing how to spot suicide risk, you can save the life of someone you love.
I would invite anyone interested to visit www.thegriefgirl.com for a free copy of this book. Suicide is tragic; doing nothing about it is unforgivable.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.I would invite anyone interested to visit www.thegriefgirl.com for a free copy of this book. Suicide is tragic; doing nothing about it is unforgiveable.
You might think you know what bullying looks like, but today, bullying comes in countless forms – and with innumerable consequences. Unfortunately, it’s a hard truth that nearly a third of America’s students grades 6 to 12 have experienced bullying, while nearly 70 percent have witnessed bullying at school.
Chances are, they’re not all wearing black eyes.
Today’s bullies aren’t the beefy, leather-jacket wearing jocks of old movies and cartoons. Today’s bullies lurk in unexpected places – like your child’s social media inbox or his incoming texts. And today, bullying has ramifications that go way beyond broken bones and bruised egos. In fact, newscasts are frequently dotted with stories of teens and young adults who complete suicide after enduring bullying at school or online. In my book, “R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide,” I speak of one teen driven to suicide after bullying made her feel isolated, alone and terribly depressed.
No teen should ever feel what so many of our youth face every day. If you suspect your child (or one you love) is being bullied, it’s time to talk about it. Knowing the signs of bullying is the first step to saving a teen’s dignity, her self-esteem and possibly her life.
Warning Signs of Bullying
Risk Factors for Bullying
Make no mistake, bullying is everyone’s problem.
It could happen to the poorest kid on the street – or the richest. A shy tuba player in the band could be the target; so could the captain of the cheerleading squad. Bullying can happen to anyone, and that’s why it’s so important to recognize the warning signs that your child or one you love is experiencing bullying. That said, there are several reasons a teen might become the target of bullying. These “risk factors” include:
Too often, parents learn that their child experienced bullying too late. While your teen may not be considering suicide, if he’s being bullied, it’s undoubtedly affecting his confidence and self-esteem. If you suspect bullying, your first step is asking a simple question: R U OK? This question graces the cover of my book because, too often, teens think they have to face their challenges alone. Asking the question opens a dialogue that in turn can help save your teen from the isolation and pain she feels. For more information on how to talk to your teen, check out “R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide.”.
You might already know that suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. You might even know that one in five U.S. teenagers seriously considers suicide annually. But these statistics are just that – statistics. Until they’re not anymore. Today, teen suicide isn’t just the subject of TV shows and newscasts. Today, it’s happening in our own backyard.
In the last two weeks, two teens completed suicide in South Orange County. Today, two families are left with inexplicable heartbreak, while friends, peers and communities are left reeling and wondering, “what can we do?”
As a community, we can write trite condolences on social media to their friends and family – or we can actually do something to prevent this from happening in the future. With so many teens considering suicide each year, it’s impossible to think this could never happen to your child. That’s because mental illness, bullying and depression can happen to anyone – and they’re major players in suicide ideation. In fact, mental illness is the leading cause of suicide, and it’s also where we can make the biggest difference – that is, if we take action.
The teen suicide epidemic requires just that – action. Proactive education is the only way we can save today’s youth. Fortunately, suicide prevention education is now mandatory in all California schools, thanks to the bill AB2246 passed in late 2016. But unfortunately, there is still no date on which schools are required to meet this mandate. While schools drag their feet, students in need of understanding, education or even just a listening ear are continuing to feel hopeless and alone. Our teens need our help now.
Teens need to know they matter. They need to understand what mental illness is and how it can be treated. Above all, they need to know they’re not alone and that there is help .They need to know there is hope.
Again, they need our help now.
I wrote my book, “R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide” in order to provide a complete toolkit for teens on mental illness, suicide and everything else they face on a daily basis. The book includes warning signs and risk factors of depression and suicide, tips on identifying high-risk groups for suicide, and various stories of teens struggling with bullying, self-harm, substance abuse, gender confusion, anxiety, depression and PTSD. Above all, the book shows teens how to cope with these challenges – what to do, where to go, how to recognize them and, above all, shows them that there is help and hope out there.
Recently, a local parent purchased 100,000 copies of my book to donate to schools and organizations working with teens across the nation. Now, I’m working to get this important toolkit into the hands of teens who need it most.
SIGN YOUR SCHOOL UP TO RECEIVE FREE COPIES
I need your help to give our teens the opportunity for the future they deserve. Help me to save a life, whether it’s yours, your child’s or that of someone you love. Please visit thegriefgirl.com to find out how to order books (free!) for your school or youth group.
Kristi Hugstad | The Grief Girl
by Kristi Hugstad
Each of us has attached ourselves to something or somebody, and when you lose that special thing or person, you grieve. Always. You can try to run from it all you want, but it will always find you and tackle you when you’re not looking. My blogs, along with my books, will give you the tools to help you learn to live with your new self as you journey through your grief.