hope

Kate Spade’s suicide- preventing copycats.

The tragic news of Kate’s Spade’s death by suicide today came as a blow to many who assumed she was someone who “had it all. “ We don’t yet know any details, but the sad truth is that there is an increase in suicides across all ages in the United States, and an increase in anxiety and depression rates. Sadly, in the wake of a high profile suicides, copycat behavior often follows. Because Kate Spade has name recognition on such a global scale, the potential for copycat behavior is not only possible, but highly likely.

The name and product lines of Kate Spade are synonymous with quality, whimsy, and something bigger than each of us. Owning a real (or even fake) Kate Spade product offers a simple and straightforward invitation to snippets of a beautiful life. These snippets offer small moments of relief from the messiness of the world we live in. If you are a woman reading this, you know exactly what I am talking about, which is perhaps why the actual Kate Spade’s actual death by suicide is hitting the world in such a profound way.

My fear is that the Kate Spade handbag or dress sitting nicely in your closet (the one that brought you a tiny shred of joy just this morning when you glanced at it while you were getting dressed) just took on a whole new meaning. Tonight before you go to sleep, you might take another long look at that handbag or dress, and wonder if the world really is at is appears. As a therapist, I will answer in advance to save you some existential angst. The answer is yes and no.

Yes, the world is messy and not perfect. We are messy and not perfect. We are complex humans with incredibly complex brains, emotions, experiences and we all make mistakes. No, the world is not really as perfect as a Kate Spade handbag might have led you to believe, and the snippet of perfection was just that- a snippet. Millions, actually billions of dollars went into marketing the belief that if you buy a specific product like a simple and beautifully crafted handbag, you too will have a perfect life. We fall for that line of thinking every single day.

Suicidal thinking often happens when a person has lost all hope, and has lost touch with reality to such a degree, that they really can’t see clearly. The thinking that the world would be better off without them is common. Deep depression can cause this faulty thinking. I have sat with people in these dark places, and then sat with them following their recovery. They often look back in astonishment that they tumbled to such a low place.

If you have a friend or loved one who is feeling depressed and appear to be in danger, please intervene on their behalf. Often it is very simply a tiny shred of hope that is needed to keep a person going one more day until they can get themselves to safety, or the get a glimpse of coming caring to help them see clearly. Perspective is a big helper in breaking through the darkness. Offering your loved one an opportunity to contemplate past or future times might serve as an antidote to their current inability to see beyond their current situation.

Please remember that your loved one might not be thinking clearly, and in that case, you MUST ACT ON THEIR BEHALF, even if they get angry at you in the moment. They will thank you later. Please call this suicide hotline number if you are in the US and needing help: 1-800-273-8255. Please find a local mental health professional,  or someone to assist you. Thank you and please keep wearing your Kate Spade things. Your Kate Spade product might just take on a whole new meaning.  Remember that the world is what it is; wonderful, infuriating, surprising, unpredictable, and messy.

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Resilience and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election-Using Creativity to Move Forward.

sherri-jacobs-001scan-160711-0012Resilience. Regardless of whomever won the incredibly contentious US presidential election of 2016, Wednesday, November 9th was going to be a tough day in our nation’s history. Why? The virtual split in this nation, as illustrated in the almost evenly cast votes paints the true picture of a nation divided. This isn’t the first time the US has felt deep divisions, and it won’t be the last. We survived in the past. We grew from our conversations, our civil war, our protests, our disagreements, our errors, and our problems.

Rather than mourning for what we could have been had the election swayed differently, how can we use our creativity and our freedom of speech to continue creating that world we imagined for ourselves? The days following this historic election have been filled with a nation in disbelief, protestors from across the country disagreeing with the outcome, and incidents of hate crimes dotting our landscape. Sadly, this most likely would have happened regardless of which candidate won. According to the election results, it was only a matter of 50,000 or so extra Clinton voters over three of the swing states that might have altered the outcome (that is roughly the size of an average football stadium crowd). Only half of the eligible voters in the US showed up at the polls for this historic election. Where was everyone else? By not voting, they actually voted for THIS.

To the Clinton supporters, I am going to ask you a hard question: Is it possible that a Clinton win might have offered an opportunity for business as usual in your life, because you knew that someone on Capitol Hill was going to bat for you? Is it possible that a Clinton win would have given you a “hall pass” to not really get involved for change, because someone else would be doing that on your behalf?

To the Trump supporters, I am going to ask you a hard question: Is it possible that a Trump win might offer an opportunity for business as usual in your life, because you know that someone on Capitol Hill is going to bat for you? Is it possible that a Trump win will give you a “hall pass” to not really get involved for change, because someone else will be doing that  on your behalf?

Unleashing our creativity might seem like a lukewarm solution to the current climate, but creativity might be the best and only way to move forward. How can a person with zero experience in serving in a public office suddenly be elected to become the next leader of the free world? If Donald Trump can do that, what kind of untapped potential might we have to do something, big or small, in our own lives? This paradigm shift is suddenly offering everyone an unusual opportunity to reexamine everything. If we can take the time to see this as an unusual opportunity for mobilizing ourselves and our first amendment rights, we might be able to reverse the climate of hate that brewed over this campaign.

The Oxford English dictionary defines creativity as, “The use of imagination or original ideas to create something.” Apathy will perpetuate the fissure so strongly felt on both sides of the divide. Misguided anger will also perpetuate the problems clearly present in our nation. It is in this swampy, murky space we must recreate something new if we are to shape the nation we want our children to thrive in. The creative process offers us to an opportunity to sublimate our raw emotions into something bigger and better than we might currently be able to imagine.  Real solutions and coherent communication can only happen when we engage beyond the “fight, flight or freeze” responses to things happening around us, and tap into the higher part of our brains (the pre frontal cortex or part that separates us from the animal kingdom).

The real thing at stake in this brand new era is our first amendment right of freedom of speech. How will journalists fare in this new climate of a president extremely hostile to negative attention? Will news outlets criticizing Donald Trump be squashed and blacklisted? Should we sit by idly and wait to see what happens? No. This is the time to make your voice heard. How? Express yourself. Reach out to people around you. Decide how you can make your own community a better place. This does not have to be in a political realm. Waiting to see what might unfold is following the same crummy path as the folks who didn’t show up on election day.

As a nation of citizens who have exhibited resilient behavior for 238 years, I am confident that as we awake from the shock and utter surprise of our current situation, we will pull up our bootstraps, dust ourselves off, look around and ask what the heck we can do to create the type of nation we would like to live in. This change must start in our own imaginations, and then materialize through ideas and action. In the words of Viktor Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” There are about 725 days until midterm elections of 2018. What can you do in that time period to connect to and transform your surroundings?

-Image above is a hand cut paper cut created by this writer, Sherri Jacobs, MS, LMFT, MA, ATR.