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One week, 2 tragic deaths, and alarming stats on suicide: America, this is a wake-up call.

Since 1999, suicide rates in the United States have risen nearly 30%.

After two devastating celebrity suicides, the country is talking about the profound impact of mental health issues.

Designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef and television host Anthony Bourdain both died by suicide within just a few days of each other. It's two headline-grabbing instances indicative of a terrifying situation in our country.

Photos by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images (left) and Mark Mainz/Getty Images (right).


While celebrities garner wide attention when suicide and mental health issues occur, it's an epidemic faced by millions of everyday Americans on a large scale. A recent CDC report on suicide in the United States shows that since 1999, suicide rates in the United States have risen nearly 30%.

54% of the people who died by suicide weren't previously diagnosed with a mental health issue. But it's more complicated than that.

According to David Brent, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, it's important to understand there wasn't a known mental illness for 54% of those who killed themselves — meaning those struggling with a mental illness may not have known they had one.

"The reason most suicide decedents don’t have a known mental disorder is that they were never diagnosed, not that they didn’t have one," Brent writes in an email.

"It has been established over and over again that 90% of individuals who die by suicide have at least one, and often more than one, major mental disorder through psychological autopsy studies," Brent adds. "So the idea that one’s life circumstances, or availability of lethal agents, can drive one to suicide certainly can happen."

Brent brings up an interesting point that many struggle to understand when famous celebrities end their own lives. Suicide is not limited to those who are struggling financially, have unfulfilling jobs, or have mundane lives. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to live an extremely wealthy life with continuous success and still struggle. Mental illness and suicide do not discriminate. They can affect all people.

Photo via iStock.

The surprising reality of challenges that famous people experience behind the scenes can be hard to understand. Bourdain was open about his struggles with drug addiction and depression, but it's unclear of how much professional support Bourdain had before his death. After Kate Spade's death, reports noted that the designer struggled with mental illness for years but refrained from seeking help because of fears that it would hurt her "happy" brand. Celebs and regular citizens should feel able and empowered to seek help.

Society must continue to foster a culture that doesn't stigmatize those seeking mental health services so they aren't afraid in the first place.

As suicide rates across the nation continue to climb, experts continue to note the importance of reaching out for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

"We have worked really hard to explain to the public that suicide is not simply a matter of too much stress but that it involves the identification and treatment of mental disorders as one important component," Brent writes.

The conversation on how to prevent suicide and address the mental illnesses that often precede them is ongoing and complex. After all, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.

We have the capacity to address mental health and reduce suicides — and we need to learn how to make that happen.

"I believe that we know enough to prevent suicide now," Brent writes. "Suicide is not going up in every country. Work from While et al. (2012) and Kapur et al. (2016) has demonstrated that improvements in how mental health care is delivered can reduce suicide in the U.K. In the Henry Ford Hospital System, an approach called Zero Suicide Initiative has been shown to dramatically reduce the suicide rate among individuals in their system with mental health disorders. There are evidence based prevention programs that can substantially reduce the rate of conditions that lead to suicide: criminality, violence, depression, substance abuse [such as] Good Behavior Game, for example or YAMS, Wasserman et al., Lancet, now being implemented in Montana."

In addition to the resources Brent suggests, it's also important to show up for those around us who are struggling. Numerous researchers and suicide prevention experts suggest showing struggling friends and family support without judgment, asking specific questions, and suggesting seeking professional help.

And if you yourself are struggling, know that there are immediate resources available if you're in a crisis. There are many organizations to become familiar with, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line (text "HOME" to 741741), and the Trevor Project 866-488-7386.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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