Kat Atwell is a freelance writer, blogger & stage presence telling stories that deliver laughs, validation & community.

Mental Health | Wellness & Self Image | Experiential & Reviews

It's not the how, it's the why.

The deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade in the span of a week are crushing. It hurts the spirit, and it is hard to see people who presumably have everything, then lose everything in an instant. There are questions as to why it happened, what led to it, why didn’t anyone do anything?

Here’s why: America doesn’t talk about brain conditions. Our country by and large does not treat people living with chemical disorders of the brain with the same empathy, levels of care, or acceptance. They don’t.

The most violent element in society is ignorance.
— Emma Goldman

Kate Spade’s sister told the KC star that her sister suffered “three to four years of mental illness” and “chickened out” from multiple attempts to seek treatment. She also noted, “Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves!”

THIS IS NOT OK. This breaks my heart, frankly. And while I will grant that her sister is likely hurting in ways I cannot understand, publicizing stigmatizing remarks such as these is devastating.

In Trump’s budget reform, he reduces funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Programs of Regional and National Significance by roughly $600 million.

Unless otherwise tied to a terrorist act, no one chooses to die by suicide. To choose to die by suicide would be akin to choosing to die by heart disease. It would make more sense to indicate someone died of depression, or anxiety, or schizophrenia, or OCD, or bipolar, etc.

The act that ends a life is not the most important part of the story. However, it is the one that can garner the most attention. And that’s sickening.

It’s the symptoms that go unchecked, the treatment options that aren’t available, the astronomical costs, the funding that is depleting, the people that are hiding in plain sight, pretending they’re OK. It’s the friends and family who don’t know how to advocate for their loved ones.

On average, there are 123 suicides in the US daily. And for each of the suicides that have resulted in death, there have been 25 people who tried to eradicate their suffering and were unable to do so. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

This is our new normal. Mental illness is growing, and treatment options are not meeting the needs of those impacted. No one should have to live a life of secrecy due to mental illness. No one should be seen as incompetent because they experience depression or anxiety. We shouldn’t have to hide these things, like they’re somehow blemishes on our personalities.

I feel like I’m shouting into a void when I say this same thing over and over again, but it continues to be the message that has to be heard: You are not alone. People want to help you. If you do not understand mental illness, there are resources available everywhere.

HOWEVER, it is not merely the responsibility of the person living with an illness to reach out for help. It is a shared responsibility. We, as a community, must step up and look out for each other better. We need to reach out to each other more. We need to be more accepting and educated about brain conditions. We must stop blaming people for succumbing to mental illness.

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If you have questions or need resources, I can help. People can help. We can help each other.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273–8255

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