Celebrity suicides highlight troubling trend in midlife

  • Jun. 8, 2018 5:20 p.m.

CHICAGO — The deaths of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade highlight a troubling trend — rising suicides among middle-aged Americans.

Mental health problems, often undiagnosed, are usually involved and experts say knowing warning signs and who is at risk can help stop a crisis from becoming a tragedy.

Bourdain, 61, and Spade, 55, died three days and a continent apart this week amid a new U.S. report showing an uptick in suicides rates in nearly every state since 1999. Middle-aged adults — ages 45 to 64 — had the largest rate increase, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previous studies have suggested economic downturns and the nation’s opioid crisis contributed to the rise in middle-aged suicides.

Dr. Christine Moutier, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said Friday it’s important for everyone to know the warning signs and to intervene when family members, friends or co-workers appear troubled. Asking if they’ve had suicidal thoughts is not harmful and lets them know you care, she said.

Behaviour that may indicate someone is suicidal includes:

—Talking about feeling hopeless, trapped, a burden to others or wanting to die.

—Unusual mood swings or withdrawing from family, friends and usual activities.

—Giving away important possessions.

—Increased use of alcohol or drugs.

This week’s report found that many suicides were in people with no known mental illness. But Dr. Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said that contradicts years of data, suggesting many have “gone undiagnosed and untreated. It’s very troubling.”

Gordon said doctors need to ask patients at every opportunity about their mental health and evaluate their risk for suicide.

“When you ask everybody and not just people you might suspect, you double the number you detect,” he said.

Gordon noted that psychotherapy and certain psychiatric drugs have been shown to reduce suicidal tendencies.

Moutier of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said that suicides can be “contagious” — hearing about one may make others who are already at risk turn to self-harm. She said celebrity suicides also typically prompt an increase in calls to suicide help lines.

“People should know that suicide is preventable. Anyone contemplating suicide should know that help is available, and that there is no shame in seeking care for your mental health,” Dr. Altha Stewart of the American Psychiatric Association said in a statement.

Just Posted

WATCH: Central Albertans learn about farm life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Pioneer Days Festival in Red Deer Saturday-Sunday

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

Update: Buccaneers win 38-13 in final home game

Bucs off to the finals with the win

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

MISSOULA, Mont. — A wildfire in Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing… Continue reading

Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Couillard march in Montreal’s Pride parade

MONTREAL — Thousands of cheering spectators lined the streets of Montreal on… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month