This week our newsfeed has been filled with anecdotes reflecting on the tragic death of designer Kate Spade and this morning we woke up to the news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. Both individuals were beloved, celebrated and inspired millions of people around the world and both lost their lives to suicide.

It seemed to be most shocking to the public that someone with success, fame and money was deeply depressed suffering in silence. Despite living such colourful lives out loud, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade were fighting battle within themselves that few knew about. The passing of these two celebrities has sparked an important reminder that mental illness does not discriminate. Mental illness knows know socioeconomic status or class and will impact “1 in 5 Canadians in any given year.”

Over the last number of years, the discourse on mental health has made gains and is slowly becoming less stigmatized. Every few months, there are digital conversations around the importance of speaking up and speaking out for mental health, but what must happen next is action.

We need to get loud for mental health every day, online and offline because mental illness can happen to anyone at any time. Despite the fact that depression is a life threatening illness, like heart disease or cancer, there is still stigma, misinformation and shame. There remain significant and serious barriers to those needing help accessing support that range from discrimination to fear.

Part of changing the way we support those experiencing mental health issues requires bringing these conversations from the digital world into our everyday lives. While the work happening is on social media is important and helping break down barriers, we cannot have our action limited to only a ‘like’, or a ‘retweet’, or ‘sharing’. Our support must include people talking about mental health out loud, not matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may make them.

Our action means showing up differently in how we support those experiencing mental health issues. It means each of us showing kindness and empathy to those brave enough to share their stories or ask for help. It means checking in with our loved ones and knowing the warning signs because sometimes a person dealing with mental health issues may not even realize they need help.

We cannot keep waiting until someone experiencing mental health issues is in crisis before we act or bring the conversation to the fore.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help:

  • Call your doctor’s office.
  • Call 911 for emergency services.
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
  • Call the toll-free Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566
  • Ask a family member or friend to help you make these calls or take you to the hospital.

YW Calgary offers group and family counselling to help women and their families build a healthy future in a safe supportive environment. For more information please call 403-536-2844.