After the recent suicides of two known celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I couldn’t ignore writing about this topic. I felt mournful at the thought that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were convinced there was no other way out of their suffering other than taking their own lives. The subject of suicide is a difficult topic for me given that one of my family members took his life a year ago. Suicide is something that negatively impacts everyone who knew the person in a profoundly painful way. My heart also goes out to all of those who were close to Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, and those who loved them for what they uniquely brought to the world.
Please keep in mind that everyone is different, and may have a multitude of varying triggers that motivate them to want to take their own life. However the triggers in life don’t make you suicidal, but rather the irrational beliefs in response to the triggers. Although the motivation for suicide can vary drastically from person to person, the irrational beliefs fueling suicidal ideation are almost always the same. All of us have a genetic predisposition to inherit varying personality traits. People with suicidal depression often have a genetic predisposition to uphold a more negative worldview, and a more self-downing view of themselves.
Suicidal ideation is not something that develops over night. It’s not something that is caused necessarily by one or two difficult problems in a person’s life. Suicidal ideation is rooted in deeper-seeded irrational beliefs that have formed and evolved over a long period of time after a series of negative triggering events. These beliefs taint the way a person views him or herself, the world, and others around them. Depending on what they believe depends on what they see. If they believe the world is an ugly and rotten place then they will only notice the ugly and rotten things that happen to them. As a consequence of this, it “proves” this belief “right” — It’s called confirmation bias. If you think you’re a failure you’ll only notice your failures. Undisputed irrational beliefs take this negative outlook to another more extreme level.
If you’ve read my other blogs you’re probably already somewhat familiar with Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). In REBT it’s believed there are four groups of irrational beliefs that create any type of emotional disturbance:
- Demandingness (reality unacceptance)
- Low frustration tolerance (LFT)
- Global evaluations of self/others (labeling)
- Awfulizing (catastrophic thinking)
Although demandingness and awfulizing can very well be associated with suicidal depression, global evals and low frustration tolerance tend to have the strongest correlation. REBT states that there are two types of negative emotions; healthy and unhealthy ones. Healthy negative emotions (HNE’s) help you cope and problem-solve. Unhealthy negative emotions (UNE’s) don’t help you cope or problem-solve. In order to go from an HNE to an UNE depends on what you’re thinking about. Irrational beliefs will almost always get you from a HNE (sadness) to a UNE (suicidal depression).
Global evals are irrational because a part doesn’t equal a whole. Imagine if you get rejected and think the rejection means that you’re “entirely worthless.” Rationally speaking how could one rejection or even a few rejections logically mean that you have absolutely no use, value, or worth as a person? Using the same logic would mean that if you aren’t rejected that it would make you entirely worthwhile. Rejection doesn’t make you 100% one thing or the other. Human beings are way more complex than that, and rating yourself with global evaluations only get you to feel worse. The belief that you’re worthless is only one example of many global evaluations. Those with suicidal ideation tend to label themselves a lot with holistic self-downing labels based on their imagined shortcomings. Continual use of these personal labels perpetuates that depression cycle.
LFT is the belief that you only have a fixed amount of frustration that you can withstand. This is irrational because solely on the basis of something being unpleasant doesn’t logically follow that you cannot tolerate it. The only thing in life that you can’t get through is death, because if you’ve passed away you’re not getting through anything. Many people with suicidal depression have a LFT to their own negative feelings, and believe very strongly that they can no longer cope with them. People don’t take their lives when they think they can handle more — only when they think they can’t. Even if you don’t handle something well doesn’t mean you’re not getting through it, it just means you’re not handling it as well as you’d like.
Depression takes away your energy and motivation to do pretty much anything. With low energy, a sense of hopelessness and the belief that nothing will get better, depression can often result in:
- Social withdrawal
- Low energy
- Low motivation
- Increased sleep/decreased sleep
- Increased appetite/decreased appetite
- Thinking of harmful ways to escape emotional pain
- Suicidal ideation
The more you withdraw from life, the less chances you have for more meaningful experiences to disprove many of the failure, worthless and hopeless types of global evaluations about yourself. Social support and engagement is also a great way to help you overcome life’s difficulties. Low energy and motivation from depression don’t promote participation in life, which leaves you more isolated and alone.
It’s unfortunate that Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade were two people who most likely started telling themselves negative thoughts that strengthened these irrational beliefs. Although their reason for suicide will never be 100% certain, it’s without a doubt that their beliefs were irrational and distorted. This caused them to remain in an UNE for the majority of the time. Suicide is a heart attack of the mind. It’s when the irrational beliefs have become so strong that your willingness to live diminishes, and you see no other way out other than death. These unfortunate celebrity suicides also speak to the level of importance of seeking out mental health treatment to help get control of these dangerous thinking patterns. Therapy can help you think in a more balanced and rational manner, and to start seeing yourself and the world in another way that was never once thought before. The better you think, the better you feel, and the more likely you are act as if the beliefs were true. This promotes new experiences that disprove your old unhealthy beliefs. Also remember that no matter what happens to you there is always someone there to listen. It may be a friend, family member, neighbor, or even a mental health professional. Please remember that negative emotions never last forever. They come and go and always last longer than we’d like, but they never last for eternity. Just because you’re depressed right now doesn’t mean it will always be this way. There are many people qualified and willing to help you cope better and get passed it. Asking for help is the first step toward change, and getting control of your life.