British Columbia

Talk of suicide should be taken seriously, psychiatrist says in wake of 2 celebrity deaths

“A family member or friend who talks about suicide — consider that person a suicide risk because people don’t talk about suicide on a daily basis."

Chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion icon Kate Spade both died by suicide this week

Fashion designer Kate Spade, left, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, right, both died by suicide this week. (Amy Sussman, Larry French/Getty Images)

Chef Anthony Bourdain's death Friday is the second celebrity death by suicide this week, coming just days after fashion icon Kate Spade died in New York.

An outpouring of condolences and referrals for resources for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are being posted across social media platforms in response.

Dr. Shaila Misri, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, says extra caution is needed during the aftermath of a well-publicized suicide.

"It's [becomes] kind of community sanctioned behavior because it's so well-advertised," Misri told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

That can lead to "copycat suicides", she said, where an initial death can act as a trigger to subsequent ones.

Taking warning signs seriously is crucial at any time, she said, but especially when it's making headlines.

"A family member or friend who talks about suicide — consider that person a suicide risk because people don't talk about suicide on a daily basis," she said. "That's an alert, a signal should go off."

Ask uncomfortable questions

Bev Gutray, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association's B.C. Division, says the death by suicide of celebrities with seemingly everything going for them shows that a person's private pain is never knowable from the outside.

Gutray's advice for anyone concerned about a loved one going through a dark time is to simply reach out and listen.

"If no one reaches out, you will never know what's going on," Gutray told On The Coast guest host Angela Sterritt.

"Often… what most people are waiting for is is for someone just to ask and then for that person to listen and not be judgmental."

Gutray says it doesn't take an expert to check in on a person of concern but you do need to be willing to ask some uncomfortable questions.

She says if you do discover a person is having suicidal thoughts, medical help should be sought immediately.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the B.C. Crisis Centre Distress Line number at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433.

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition and On The Coast