Written by: Alexander Kenny, Peak Associate

In recent weeks, the world lost two iconic celebrities to suicide. It was a shock to all of us, as both appeared to be happy with their lives. The deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain stunned me.

Spade was at the helm of a fashion empire built on her eponymous handbags. According to CNN, Spade’s husband, Andy, said he was in “complete shock” after her death — he discussed how she had been getting help for her anxiety and depression, and how the night before she died, she seemed perfectly happy.

Bourdain was a world-renowned chef, having authored multiple books and hosted a few television shows. His most popular show was Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN, which focused on him travelling the world and connecting with people and their cultures through local cuisine. Furthermore, one of his friends said that the last he knew, Bourdain was happy and in love.

There is something to be said about mental health in successful people and feeling like nothing is ever enough. We all naïvely believe that all of our problems will go away once we’ve accomplished our dreams. We trick ourselves into believing that money and success will cure the sadness and emptiness we feel, when in reality, we become emptier after realizing that money can’t fix things that can’t be bought. USA Today discusses how we live in a culture that is too busy trying to “make it” while discarding friendships, family, and self-actualization.

From the outside, their lives sound wonderful and completely fulfilling. These deaths illustrate a key issue; a fulfilling, successful career is only one aspect of life, and does not guarantee wellbeing or overall happiness.

Changing the way we view money and success is not an easy feat, but we can get better at regarding mental illness as more than a stain on our perfect lives. Seeking out professional help and taking antidepressants shouldn’t feel like acts of shame that need to be best-kept secrets.

However, professional help and medication should also not be viewed as cure-alls. A person may be getting a weekly 60-minute session with a professional, but it does not mean that their issues disappear for the rest of the week. Professional help is just a small puzzle piece in the grand scheme of someone’s well-being. Healthy interpersonal relationships are vital to a person’s well-being and perception of themselves.

Unfortunately, as a society, we often struggle to be able to sit down with each other on a regular basis and simply talk about what we’re feeling, especially the emotions deep down that may eventually manifest into something much darker. The dialogue that society creates around mental health should make it so that talking about these topics feels as unrestricted as speaking with a friend over the phone.

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain show that regardless of how happy the people around you seems, they could be crumbling on the inside. It will always be necessary for us to check up on each other.

As university students, we probably all have experiences — one way or another — with a classmate or friend who has struggled with their wellbeing. Therefore, we need discussions of mental and emotional well-being to become as routine and comfortable a part of everyday conversation as talking about the weather.

These recent losses have shown that we still have progress to make in regards to our dialogue on mental health. We each have a responsibility to improve it, and we owe it to each other, as classmates, colleagues, and friends. So today, even if your friend seems happy, ask how they’re doing. Give them a hug. It could help more than we give it credit for.

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