March 19, 2014

Suicide: Hiding Depression in Plain Sight.

suicide note

Thanks to the endless snow which has blanketed most of the East Coast, I was home from work today when I logged onto my computer and learned that celebrity designer and stylist L’Wren Scott was found dead in her apartment on Monday at the age of 49.

Apparently, Ms. Scott, who was also known for being the long-term girlfriend of rocker Mick Jagger, died of an apparent suicide by hanging herself from a doorknob.

Almost immediately the gossip sites began to speculate what would drive her to commit such an act. Some suggested that it might be due to financial woes. (It was said that her design company had failed to turn a profit since its launch in 2006 and had debts around $6 million.) It was also rumored that perhaps there were problems in her personal relationship with Jagger.

Honestly, I have no idea nor do I feel comfortable speculating about any of that. However, it’s safe to say that for her to have taken her own life, Ms. Scott’s life wasn’t as charmed as it appeared to the public and to her Instagram followers.

Even though I didn’t know her I cannot help but feel tremendous empathy for her loved ones, who are not only dealing with the blow of her sudden passing but probably wondering if there was something they could have done to prevent her suicide.

As someone who has had severe depression and lost two people in my life to suicide, I have been on both sides.

When I was an undergraduate in college, I suffered a bout of depression which lasted nearly a year. At my absolute lowest I was so convinced that the world would be a better place without me that I even wrote detailed instructions as to how I wanted my possessions distributed after I was gone.

Luckily, I had during that time what can only be described as a moment of clarity and sought out the professional treatment that I needed. (In my case, my life was saved thanks to a combination of medication and therapy.) However, no one—not my roommate/best friend or even my then-boyfriend—had any idea that anything was going on.

To the outside, I appeared to be thriving.

I achieved a near perfect GPA that semester and was active in a variety of on and off-campus activities. I also held down a part-time job. In short, I defied the usual stereotype that one has of someone who is isolated and failing at everything they attempt.

While some people who attempt or commit suicide may fit that stereotype, many others are good at hiding at their pain and will go out of their way to appear happy and normal because they don’t want to worry friends and loved ones or worse, feel like a “burden” to them. (At least, that was true in my case.)

While suicide has often been called the ultimate selfish act, the truth is that in most cases, both those who contemplate it and those who actually go through with it believe that it is the least selfish thing they can for those who care about them.

The thinking is, “At least they’ll no longer have to worry about me anymore.”

If it sounds irrational, it’s supposed to: depression is an illness, and like many ill people, a depressed person’s mind is not working at 100 percent.

Still, though I know from my own experience how it feels to be that low, I also know what it is like to lose someone to suicide and I immediately ask, “What could I have done to prevent this?” Even when we know there is nothing we could have done and there is nothing to feel guilty about, that feeling still lingers. Sometimes it never goes away.

In any case, one thing that is worth noting is that several friends, family members and clients of L’Wren Scott describe her as “strong” as well as a generally kind and generous person. I have no doubt she was. Sadly, though, some of the strongest and kindest people aren’t able to be strong and kind to the person who deserves it the most: themselves.

In closing, my heart goes out to Ms. Scott as well as the other estimated 104 people each day in the US alone who decide to end their lives.

If any good can come out of this, I hope that it will bring more attention to this problem as well as shatter stereotypes of how a would-be suicide victim acts and presents themselves. It’s also my wish that those who are at the point where they are consider taking their lives will seek out the treatment they need and get some idea how dearly they would be missed.

While undoubtedly a celebrity’s suicide will always get more attention than a private citizen’s, the feelings of shock, loss and grief are the same. This is one “club” that no one should ever be a member of and fortunately, does not need to be if proper help is sought.



Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: saccharinesmile/Deviant-art Creative Commons

Read 15 Comments and Reply

Read 15 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Kimberly Lo  |  Contribution: 55,675