The Sassy Psychologist: Success is not an antidote for suicide

Photo courtesy of Parts Unknown

Two big names in one week. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Two highly successful people took their own lives by hanging themselves. A gross misconception is that having abundant wealth or fame or success should somehow repel and protect us from depression and/or suicidal ideation and completion. It’s time to wake up people – this is false!  In the day and age of the #metoo movement, it appears people are listening…so let’s talk. 

Early on in my career, I was working in the community doing some volunteer work with a population of people who lived below the poverty line. I was just starting my private practice at the time, as a second job. One of the other workers was aware that I was also working with a different population of clients privately – clients who likely had a budget for private therapeutic services, i.e. clients who had more money. She looked over at me, and quite randomly said, “Spending more time with your rich clients? You and your rich clients.” I was taken aback by this comment as it seemed to randomly come out of the bright blue sky. Obviously, she was somehow triggered by my private work and look…in the end, she was entitled to her thoughts and feelings. However, on my end, her comment pissed me off so much that it branded my brain. At that moment, I understood why mental health awareness campaigns were OBLIGATORY AND INDISPENSABLE. To hold a belief that people with more money (or fame or success) are somehow impenetrable to feelings of clinical mental illness is short-sighted and, dare I say, pretty frikin’ ignorant! I even have clients walking into my office saying things like, “There are people worse off than me. I should be happy. I have a family who loves me, a beautiful house, and a great job so why should I seek therapy? Why do I deserve to spend time with a practitioner when they could be helping someone worse off then me?”  OMG! This is just not fair! If empirically-founded studies are correct, mental illness such as chronic depression (severe depression that has been present for a long time as oppose to fleeting depression brought about by a temporary environmental situation) is caused by different brain structure and functioning when compared to individuals who do not have depression. Therefore, how reasonable is it to discriminate between a poor person with depression or a rich person with depression? They are suffering in the exact same way with the exact same structural differences within their central nervous system! It’s time to open our eyes and our minds, folks. 

How much clearer can I be: Economic status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, gender, race, ethnic background, geographical location, education, income, employment status, number of dependents, favorite ice cream flavour, shoe size, preferred pasta texture, favoured movie theater seat, inclination for quinoa over rice… CANNOT ULTIMATELY SHIELD, PROTECT, OR SAFEGUARD ANYBODY FROM SUICIDE OR FROM MENTAL ILLNESS!!!! 

Mental illness holds no prejudice in choosing its sufferers, and to treat them, neither must we. 

Suicide Action Montreal: 514-376-0900

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.