HOUSTON - After the deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain, local mental health groups are urging people to ask for help if they’re contemplating suicide.
“Alleviate the sigma and call for help. I don’t care if it’s a suicide hotline, NAMI, clergy -- just call somebody. Somebody will talk to you,” said Glenn Urbach, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, Greater Houston.
NAMI is a grassroots organization that provides free services for people who have a mental illness and programs for their families.
Urbach said he was taken back Friday morning when he learned that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide.
“Sadness, and preventable -- we just got through Kate Spade’s death by suicide,” said Urbach. “When you see him on TV as strong and so vibrant and he travels the world and eats this wonderful food, but I also know there’s another side to Anthony that we don’t know when the camera’s off and he has his own personal demons and own personal story.”
In the past, after celebrities such as Robin Williams have committed suicide, Urbach said, NAMI has seen an increase in the number of phone calls it receives from people asking for help.
“Call us. Call anybody. Just don’t do the deed. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” said Urbach. The number to call is 713-970-4419.
He said he understands that, for those who have not been affected by a mental illness, the idea of contemplating suicide may be hard to understand.
“You’re not going to be able to tell someone, ‘Look at your beautiful home and career.’ It does not work. If anything, we’ve learned that mental health does not care if you're black, white, rich, poor, American or Romanian. It does not matter where you live, who you are. It affects 25% of the world population,” said Urbach.
To give perspective, Urbach talked about how people can get to such a dark place, they believe death is the best solution at that time to alleviate the pain.
“When you’re in that depressive state, your mind is no longer your own. It’s just not, and it almost becomes your enemy, but it’s fixable,” said Urbach.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week released a study saying that death by suicide has been on the rise and, in Texas, it’s increased by 19 percent.
Urbach said a depressive state can be compared an episode to the flu. After several days or weeks, one can forget what it’s like to not feel achy and sick.
“The same thing holds true from when someone has a depressive episode.
They don’t want to be around their kids. They don’t want to be around their co-workers. They’re withdrawn. They get to a point that, I know, doesn’t make sense to us, but in his brain you get into such a dark place where, that it seems like the only Tylenol, if you will, the only way to alleviate that headache, is to end your own life. And, again, it is so fixable,” said Urbach. He said suicide is preventable.
“What’s very scary about someone who commits or dies by suicide is, usually, the two days before, they’re at peace with themselves, so the families lull themselves into thinking, ‘Oh, they’re better now.’ No, it’s (because) they know what they’re going to do and they’re OK with that,” said Urbach.
What happened to Bourdain is personal for Urbach, who said he’s gone through his own journey.
“I’ve had my dark days. I’m a stronger person for it. It's just how I addressed it during my dark days. I just wished Anthony would have did it a little differently. That’s all,” said Urbach. “It’s personal but, you know, I love NAMI Greater Houston. It’s the greatest place I’ve ever worked, but death surrounds this place and sometimes it wears me down, and I’m the executive director. Today is one of those days it’s kind of wearing me down.”
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