Why would fashion designer L’Wren Scott, a beautiful, highly accomplished woman, kill herself? Although it has been reported that her label was financially troubled, her practical and elegant designs were on the verge of becoming accessible to many via Banana Republic.
Suicide has nothing to do with character and everything to do with brain function. Distorted thoughts make suicide seemed like the reasonable solution to the intense pain those thoughts create. We can see the career and personal options Ms. Scott had, but she could not.
In an August 2014 presentation at the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI) California conference, film producer, author, health activist, and actress Mariel Hemingway shared her insight into the mindset of someone who commits suicide, “They believe that leaving is the solution to everyone else’s problem…. they come from such self loathing, such a dark place.” (The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will air her documentary Running From Crazy that examines the factors leading to the seven suicides that her family experienced.)
Within the novel The Bell Jar, author Sylvia Plath insightfully described this progression of distorted thoughts. As her protagonist Esther becomes more and more depressed, her perceptions become darker and darker, and she further and further isolates herself. As the mental anguish Esther experiences becomes acute, it becomes painful to turn the page as Esther effectively builds a case for herself that suicide makes sense.
What is fashion, but wearable art? Highly creative individuals with enough drive and daring to make a living out of art and realize their creative vision sometimes have brains that tend towards depression. Highly analytical and highly creativity brains crave intense stimulation. That perfectionistic drive to create can isolate one and sometimes enable one to not know what is most important in one’s personal life.
Why anyone would end his or her own life began to fascinate me in high school. I fell in love with a couple of Ernest Hemingway’s novels and his short stories before learning that he had ended his own life. Then I fell in love with the dark humor in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and became aware that she had killed herself.
And then, one of the most honest, powerful, compelling rock-n-roll singers who ever lived, Kurt Cobain, killed himself in 1994. Reading between the lines of Charles R. Cross’s sensitive and insightful biography of Cobain, Heavier than Heaven, I could see the chaos resulting from the untreated depression that most likely fueled his drug addiction.
The Stigma Factor in Seeking Treatment
In some professions, being treated for a mental illness such as depression can be detrimental to say the least. Because of the stigma, those experiencing depression also often lose out on the outlet of discussing their struggle with friends and associates.
Treating depression is not an exact science. Mental health is a complex equation and many doctors do not take an integrative approach that examines nutrition, lifestyle, spiritual conflicts, family systems, hormonal fluctuations, and many other variables. At 49, Ms. Scott could have been experiencing perimenopause, which could exacerbate tendencies toward depression.
Ironically, in some ways those who have struggled with addiction and mental illness and adopt an all-encompassing spiritual approach towards reconstructing their lives have an advantage over those who have not struggled with addiction along with mental illness.
I met a mom who lost her beautiful, high-achieving 14-year-old daughter Amber to suicide, “As a freshman she played varsity soccer and still had time for her family, her boyfriend and her friends. She was silly. She was bold. She was encouraging. She was determined.
“We now know, Amber was also profoundly sad and didn’t believe that anyone else had felt the way that she did. She didn’t reach out for the help that was available. She masked her pain in the midst of all her talents and accomplishments. She hid her pain from a community of people who truly loved her.” (From With Hope‘s website.)
Amber’s suicide seemingly came out of nowhere. Her courageous mom started With Hope, a foundation dedicated to preventing suicide through outreach including educating high school students about depression, what could be the subtle clues of someone contemplating suicide, and what to do if one suspects a friend might be suicidal.