Why are so many people committing suicide? We blame it all on mental illness. But is it? Numbers of people are taking their own lives. Since 1999, suicides are up 30%. I am not sure we can blame all this on more people with mental illness, but rather a society that nurtures hopelessness.

Americans are working harder than ever and making less. Cost to buy homes, pay for healthcare, send kids to college..it is all enough to break most families. We have leadership that struts around and smiles while dishing out more and more hardship. Companies do not value employees, they are mere pawns in the profit game. Many Americans work their entire lives and have nothing for retirement. It all seems overwhelming.

What seems surprising is that two successful people took their lives this week. Kate Spade, a fashion designer and Anthony Bourdain, a celebrity chef and writer. The morning headlines shocked all of us with the news of their passing. It was not just their death that caught us off guard, but their apparent choices to end their lives.

They seemed to have it all. But I think in America there is always a constant reminder, it can all be taken away. One bad move, one recession, one divorce, one illness and it all can end. So Americans can never coast. There is never truly a moment to smell the flowers. As Gary V reminds endlessly, we must “Hustle.” Because what we have is what we are in the eyes of America. Integrity doesn’t matter, being a great mom doesn’t matter, doing good deeds doesn’t matter…no…only wealth.

So if Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain had all that goes with wealth, why the hopelessness? Anthony Bourdain bought a painting a few days before he died…”The Sky is Falling. I’m learning to live with it.” We may never know why his sky was falling, but I am sure it is a result of the norms of our society.

Are we not human? When we are sick, we need care. When we are hungry, we need food. In order to survive, we have needs. Hard work does not guarantee needs will be met. No, we live in a lottery for luck. The luck can disappear at anytime, for any reason. There are a few who can coast through life, but the 99% will never be truly free of fear. For Kate and Anthony, the fear may not have been loss of everything, but fear all the same. There is always an image to keep up. Imagine feeling like you have to “leave a little sparkle everywhere you go?” Kate Spade, apparently was running out of sparkle. Some fear was becoming reality.

For all of us, the sky is falling. We live in stressful times. Our lives are always hanging on the brink. We must appear to spread sparkle anyway, even on those cloudy days of uncertainty. Maybe it is not us, but the expectations forced on us. Maybe we should look at how we live and how we can make things better for humanity. Maybe we should back up and rethink what we value. When suicides are increasing, we can’t “learn to live with it.” Maybe we must not fear the sky falling. Instead, we must embrace humanity with all the imperfections and tribulations. Humanity is life. Every life is a miracle. Even without the sparkle and glitter, every person is worthy of a good life.

* Photo from Disney clip art


Originally published at medium.com