Content warning: This article deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers.
Two celebrity deaths have made international headlines in the last week; American fashion designer, Kate Spade died by suicide on June 5, 2018. Three days later, celebrity chef and food writer, Anthony Bourdain, also died by suicide.
The deaths of these icons have shocked the world, and saturated the media.
Most parents of tweens and teens would know it’s been almost impossible to shield them from learning about these deaths. The way the deaths have been highlighted in the media, the kids might not have known the celebrities beforehand, but they certainly do now.
After learning about Spade earlier in the week, my 11-year-old announced whilst watching the news about Bourdain, “Mum, another celebrity killed himself.”
And then he asked why.
I’ve never sugar-coated things for my son; being evasive with him doesn’t come naturally to me. But for once, I wasn’t sure what to say to him. He knows what suicide and depression is – we’ve talked about it. But how do I explain it to him in the context of overwhelming media attention for hugely popular A-listers?
There’s the standard: yes, he was very unwell for a long time and tried to get better, but couldn’t. Avoidance any language that validates suicide as a legitimate option to solve problems – and balancing that with teaching empathy for people who suffer from severe depression. Explaining that those who take their own lives are seriously unwell, and it is not their fault they have this terrible disease.
But undoubtedly, celebrity complicates things.
I found that for my tween, these suicides were more confusing because they happened to seemingly successful people – big identities with hugely successful careers, and everything going for them.
Popularity. Money. Children who love them.