26 Jun Celebrity Suicide: Decoupled
Earlier this month the world was rattled by the suicide of two of the brightest lights in the realm of business and entertainment. On June 5th, Kate Spade, an entrepreneur whose handbags and accessories brighten the lives of millions of women, succumbed to the darkness that plagued her soul. Just a few days later, Anthony Bourdain a charismatic man who ascended from the humblest beginnings as a line cook in NYC to a celebrity chief, surrendered to the crushing weight of hopelessness and despair.
The question everyone is asking, of course, is how could two people who seemed to have it all ever even contemplate suicide?
The answer has to do with the nature of celebrity and the challenges these human beings face in accessing quality mental health care.
From the outside celebrity looks like life perfected. From the inside, it’s a life riddled with insecurities, vulnerabilities, hypersensitivity and a chronic fear of falling from a lofty perch. As I explain in my upcoming book, celebrities are people who’ve been stripped of their humanness and objectified for a feature of their being- their beauty, their voice, their surname, their wealth, their intellect and their charisma. Through this objectification, they become pawns in others’ ego gratification and tokens of others’ pleasure.
And, when they evidence any signs of the frailties inherent in their humanity, they are decimated by the media and a public that viciously turns against them.
Unfortunately, unlike other human beings who have strong social support systems, celebrities are isolated in their pain. If they do reach out for help, they’re hunted like prey or taken advantage of by treatment providers who see them as profit centers or fodder for their narcissist egos.
But this trajectory of human suffering and loss can be altered and moved in a reparative direction.
Quality care demands that human beings at every stage of the power and economic spectrum must be provided treatment that addresses their distinct cultural traits. For celebrities, these consist of the following three markers:
(2) Suspiciousness of outsiders: and
(3) Hyper agency.
It’s time for the field of mental health to recognize that celebrities are a distinct minority group and work with their differences in a way that allows them to come forward with their human vulnerabilities. We need to look beyond the bright lights of celebrity and meet these human beings in the darkness of their souls instead of idealizing as gods then demonizing them when they show human vulnerability.