Barton Goldsmith: Suicide Season

By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith explains, while many think that suicides happen most often during the holiday season, it’s not true. Most suicides take place in late July and August, and we do not know why.

Tribune News Service

The recent suicides of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain were a shock to the world. How could this happen?

We ask ourselves this question largely because they were famous. They seemed to have it all: fame, fortune, talent.

Kate had a loving family; Bourdain had a daughter he loved and family support, but he openly struggled with loneliness.

Both suffered from an inner pain that was too much to bear, so they took their own lives to make it stop. In their case, as in most, the reason was a long-term mental illness.

More people die from suicide than from car accidents. Kate was seeing doctors and taking medication, but it wasn’t enough. Having a couple of hit television shows, even winning a Peabody Award, wasn’t enough for Anthony.

Those who have struggled with a major depressive disorder understand how deep the pain can go. Sometimes, killing yourself seems like the only way to make it stop and to end the deeply disturbing negative thinking. But it is not.

If you are someone who over worries and always thinks the sky is going to fall, like Kate, or feels lonely much of the time like Anthony, it’s a sign that you need to get medical and psychological attention.

Mental illness affects many people, not just celebrities, but with more and more stars now discussing their personal emotional battles, it has become easier for the rest of us to talk about why we are in pain.

Think about it. If someone of note is willing to discuss their mental and emotional problems with the entire world on television or Twitter, then don’t we feel a little safer discussing our issues with a trusted family member or a physician and therapist? By baring their souls to the public, these stars are helping to raise awareness and prevent tragedies.

A while back, the actor Owen Wilson failed at taking his own life. He has since returned to the silver screen and, according to reports, is doing well.

I believe he is grateful that suicide was not something he was good at. An unsuccessful attempt at ending your life can make you appreciate it much more, like having the near miss of an accident on the freeway, but this is not a recommendation to try it.

I have known more than one person who thought they took enough pills to end it all, only to wake up the next morning covered in vomit and grateful that it didn’t work.

If this happens, I recommend going straight to the hospital for further evaluation and seeking ongoing treatment, because if the feelings are not resolved somehow, the motivation to commit suicide will come up again.

One thing to keep in mind is that suicide does have a season.

Although many think that suicides happen most often during the holiday season, it’s not true. Most suicides take place in late July and August, and we do not know why.

Please be aware that if anyone in your life is dealing with a mental illness that makes them think about suicide, they need to be monitored more closely at this time of year.

Help is available online and via telephone, if you can’t find a doctor or counselor. The National Suicide Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.

You can find more information online at

Please take heed of what I have written. No one is immune, and we all can get better at how we look after ourselves and loved ones who are suffering with mental illness.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)

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