Suicide and depression rates are up across the country. (Courtesy of UnDark)
Suicide and depression rates are up across the country. (Courtesy of UnDark)

Before he reportedly took his own life Friday, celebrity chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain talked openly about depression.

In a 2016 episode of his popular CNN show, “Parts Unknown,” Bourdain laid back in a chair and spoke to a therapist to explain how depressed he was despite the glamorous position he held.

“I feel kind of like a freak and I feel very isolated,” Bourdain said. “I communicate for a living but I’m terrible at communicating with people I care about.”

Just a few days before Bourdain’s death, fashion designer Kate Spade, who also seemingly had it all, committed suicide, leaving a note behind for her 13-year-old daughter Frances.

“This has nothing to do with you,” the note read, according to various published reports. “Don’t feel guilty. Ask your dad.”

According to national statistics, depression is hitting Americans hard with postpartum difficulties and suicide rates skyrocketing. Nearly 45,000 Americans died by suicide in 2016, a statistic that includes increases in a majority of states between 1999 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fewer than half of those who took their own lives had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, CDC said.

Instead, the CDC notes suicide typically arises from a combination of factors, including relationship problems (42 percent), acute crisis (29 percent), problematic drug and alcohol use (28 percent), poor health (22 percent), job loss and money trouble (16 percent), legal issues (9 percent) and loss of housing (4 percent).

Suicide is now the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States. The CDC’s Vital Signs report noted that the rates of most causes of death have been declining.

The most recent suicide rates ranged from 6.9 per 100,000 residents in the District of Columbia, to 29.2 per 100,000 residents in Montana.

The report said suicide rate increases ranged from below 6 percent in Delaware, which had the smallest increase, to a more than 57 percent increase in North Dakota.

Other states with particularly large increases included Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Vermont and New Hampshire, each with increases of between 43 and nearly 58 percent. Overall, the increase exceeded 30 percent in 25 states.

While depression has been among the illnesses leading to suicide, experts said another mental health battle that concerns health officials is postpartum difficulties.

On Saturday, June 23, the nonprofit Postpartum Support International will host “Climb Out of the Darkness,” the world’s largest event to raise awareness of maternal mental illness like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum post-traumatic stress, postpartum psychosis, perinatal bipolar mood disorders, and pregnancy depression and anxiety.

The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the National Mall.

“Our mission is to promote awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing in every country worldwide,” said Emily Newton, the program manager for the event and Postpartum Support International.

Watson said the group provides training for medical professionals, counseling professionals, and peers who lead peer support groups; support groups; and consultation lines for doctors who don’t know how to treat pregnant and nursing women.

They also host a help line to support new families and those who support them.

About one in seven women will experience something more extreme than the typical baby blues, mental health experts said.

According to the CDC, as much as 20 percent of new mothers experience one or more symptoms of postpartum depression.

Like other types of depression, postpartum depression can include several symptoms such as feeling down or depressed for most of the day for several weeks or more; feeling distant and withdrawn from family and friends; a loss of interest in activities; changes in eating and sleeping habits; feeling tired most of the day; and feeling angry or irritable.

Postpartum depression symptoms may start in the first few weeks following childbirth, sometimes symptoms don’t begin until months after birth, CDC officials said.

Postpartum psychosis is a related mental health condition that can also develop after childbirth. This rare and serious condition includes symptoms of hallucinations, paranoia, and, at times, thoughts of harming one’s self or others. Some mothers have frequent thoughts about harming their children.

The CDC said there are several factors can lead to postpartum depression. Women with a history of depression and other mental health conditions face a higher risk and some of the factors that can increase the prospects of experiencing the condition include hormonal changes; financial strain; job changes; illness; changes in social relationships; and raising a child with special needs.

Mental health officials said postpartum illnesses can affect anyone. That’s why officials are holding the “Climb Out of the Darkness” on or near the longest day of the year to help shine the most light on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, Newton said.

The event features mothers, fathers, and others across the globe joining together to climb mountains and hike trails to represent their symbolic rise out of the darkness of perinatal mental health crises and into the light of hope and recovery.

“Our event is a gathering and walk that raises awareness, celebrates recovery, and raises money for treatment, training and education,” Newton said.

The event is also happening in 115 cities around the world with an expected 11,000 participants and Newton said it’s a major increase over last year when there was participation from 95 cities with just 700 registered people.

“The funds raised will help us achieve our long-term goal which is to prevent loss of life and prevent loss of quality of life for all families,” she said.

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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